A capsule look at Nationals-Cardinals series

Associated Press Modified: October 6, 2012 at 10:47 am •  Published: October 5, 2012
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A look at the best-of-five National League division series between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals:

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Schedule:

(All times EDT) Game 1, Sunday, at St. Louis (3:07 p.m.); Game 2, Monday, at St. Louis (4:37 p.m.); Game 3, Wednesday, at Washington (TBA); x-Game 4, Thursday, at Washington (TBA); x-Game 5, Friday, at Washington (TBA). (All games on TBS or MLB Network).

x-if necessary.

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Season Series:

Nationals won 4-3.

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Projected Lineups:

Nationals: RF Jayson Werth (.300, 5 HRs, 31 RBIs), CF Bryce Harper (.270, 22, 59, 9 triples, 98 runs), 3B Ryan Zimmerman (.282, 25, 95), 1B Adam LaRoche (.271, 33, 100), LF Michael Morse (.291, 18, 62), SS Ian Desmond (.292, 25, 73, 21 steals), 2B Danny Espinosa (.247, 17, 56, 37 doubles), C Kurt Suzuki (.235, 6, 43 with Athletics and Nationals).

Cardinals: CF Jon Jay (.305, 4, 40, 18 SBs, .373 OBP), RF Carlos Beltran (.269, 32, 97), LF Matt Holliday (.295, 27, 102), 1B Allen Craig (.307, 22, 92), 3B David Freese (.293, 20, 79), C Yadier Molina (.315, 22, 76), 2B Daniel Descalso (.227, 4, 26), SS Pete Kozma (.333, 2, 14).

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Projected Rotations:

Nationals: LH Gio Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA, 207 Ks, 199 1-3 IP), RHP Jordan Zimmermann (12-8, 2.94), RHP Edwin Jackson (10-11, 4.03), LHP Ross Detwiler (10-8, 3.40).

Cardinals: RH Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94), RH Chris Carpenter (0-2, 3.71 in 3 starts after shoulder surgery), RH Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86), RH Lance Lynn (18-7, 3.78) or LH Jaime Garcia (7-7, 3.92 in 20 starts).

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Relievers:

Nationals: RH Drew Storen (3-1, 2.37, 4 saves, 37 IP), RH Tyler Clippard (2-6, 3.72, 32/36 saves, 84 Ks, 72 2-3 IP), RH Craig Stammen (6-1, 2.34, 1 save, 87 Ks, 88 1-3 IP), LH Sean Burnett (1-2, 2.38, 2 saves, 57 Ks, 56 2-3 IP), RH Ryan Mattheus (5-3, 2.85, 66 1-3 IP), LH Michael Gonzalez (0-0, 3.03, 39 Ks, 35 2-3 IP).

Cardinals: RH Jason Motte (4-5, 2.75, 42/49 saves, 86K, 71 1-3 IP), RH Mitchell Boggs (4-1, 2.21, 78 games), RH Edward Mujica (0-3, 3.03), RH Fernando Salas (1-4, 4.30), RH Joe Kelly (5-7, 3.53), LH Marc Rzepczynski (1-3, 4.27), RH Trevor Rosenthal (0-2, 2.78).

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Matchups:

The Nationals took three of four at home against the Cardinals from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, but St. Louis outscored visiting Washington 26-12 during a three-game set Sept. 28-30. ... Jackson won the World Series with the Cardinals last season; he's the only member of Washington's starting rotation with even a single game of postseason experience — and none of the Nationals' top five relievers have been to the playoffs, either. Not much different in the everyday lineup, where only two regulars (Werth, LaRoche) have been to the postseason. So give the Cardinals a big edge in experience. ... Because the Cardinals are much better against lefties than righties, Jackson is expected to get the Game 3 start, with Detwiler in a possible Game 4. ... Led by LaRoche, six of Washington's eight everyday players hit at least 17 homers — and Werth certainly has that kind of power, too. He missed nearly three months with a broken left wrist. The club finished second in the NL with 194 homers. ... Nationals team ERA of 3.33 led the NL and was second in the majors. ... Washington was 48-33 on the road, the best mark in baseball. ... The defending World Series champion Cardinals persevered through injuries to Carpenter and 1B Lance Berkman under rookie manager Mike Matheny, and are in the postseason for the third time in four seasons. ... Moving on after the departure of Albert Pujols in free agency, the Cardinals have one of the league's most dangerous lineups with five 20-homer players for the first time in franchise history. The pitching staff was even better. Lohse had a career year heading into free agency, Lynn was an All-Star during his first year in the rotation and Wainwright had a strong year after missing 2011 due to reconstructive elbow surgery. In the bullpen, Motte tied for the league lead with 42 saves. He was the first closer in franchise history to get all of the team's saves.

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Big Picture:

Nationals: With one of the youngest rosters in the majors, strong pitching in the rotation and bullpen, and an unexpectedly vibrant offense, the Nationals (98-64) moved into the NL East lead for good on May 22 and finished with the best record in baseball. They are making their first postseason appearance since moving to Washington from Montreal before the 2005 season. The Expos/Nationals franchise hadn't been to the playoffs since 1981, while a major league team in the nation's capital last participated in the postseason in 1933, when the Senators lost in the World Series. ... A significant player who will not be facing the Cardinals: hard-throwing right-hander Stephen Strasburg. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft went 15-6 with a 3.16 ERA and 197 strikeouts over 159 1-3 innings in his first (nearly) full season following elbow ligament replacement surgery on Sept. 3, 2010. But the Nationals, in a much-debated decision that drew plenty of criticism, shut down their ace early, saying his workload was going to get too heavy in his comeback from what's commonly called Tommy John surgery. His final start of 2012 came on Sept. 7, when he lasted only three innings and allowed five earned runs against Miami; while the Nationals were expected to let him pitch one more time, they announced he was done for the year a day later. ... Washington overcame all sorts of injuries to the lineup, including trips to the DL for Werth, Zimmerman (right shoulder), Morse (back muscle) and Desmond (side muscle). ... If the players are nearly all new to the October stage, the manager most assuredly is not: Davey Johnson joined the late Billy Martin as the only skippers to win division titles with four franchises. Johnson instilled his group with confidence from spring training on, declaring he deserved to be fired if the Nationals failed to reach the playoffs. He won two World Series as a player and managed the New York Mets to the 1986 title. ... The Nationals were the only club in the majors with a winning record ev ery month in 2012; add in a 17-10 mark in September 2011, and that makes seven in a row. ... With Strasburg gone, the role of ace goes to Gio Gonzalez, who led the majors in wins after being acquired in an offseason trade from Oakland. The Nationals held him out of his last scheduled start of the regular season so he'd be well-rested for Game 1 of the playoffs. ... The Nationals got another boost in a deal with the Athletics in early August, picking up Suzuki. He replaced Jesus Flores as the primary catcher and started 11 games in a row until Washington clinched the division title.

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