Cardinals can close out Nationals in NLDS Game 4

Associated Press Published: October 11, 2012
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With the exception of Ian Desmond — 3 for 4 on Wednesday, 7 for 12 in the series — the Nationals' hitters are struggling mightily. They went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base in Game 3.

Rookie phenom Bryce Harper's woes, in particular, stand out: He went 0 for 5, dropping to 1 for 15. He went to the plate with an ash bat and no gloves in the first inning, tried wearing anti-glare tinted contact lenses on a sun-splashed afternoon — nothing helped.

"Nothing I can do," the 19-year-old Harper said. "I just missed a couple."

All in all, quite a damper on the day for a Nationals Park-record 45,017 red-wearing, towel-twirling fans witnessing the first major league postseason game in the nation's capital in 79 years. They didn't have much to enjoy, in part because of the problems created by Nationals starter Edwin Jackson, who was on the Cardinals' championship team a year ago.

"I didn't feel like I was out of rhythm. I didn't feel like I couldn't throw strikes. I just missed across the plate with a couple of balls and it cost me," Jackson said.

He gave up four consecutive hits in the second, the biggest being Kozma's first-pitch homer into the first row in left off a 94 mph fastball to make it 4-0. Kozma took over as the Cardinals' everyday shortstop in September, replacing injured All-Star Rafael Furcal, and only had 72 at-bats during the regular season.

But he's only the latest in a series of "Who's that?" stars that seem to pop up for his club, such as David Freese last autumn.

The Cardinals won 10 fewer games than the Nationals this season and finished second in the NL Central, nine games behind Cincinnati, sneaking into the postseason as the league's second wild-card under this year's new format.

Doesn't matter.

The Cardinals learned to be resilient with their stretch run in 2011, also getting into the playoffs with the last NL berth.

"We saw how, if you just take it one game at a time, we're not looking at, 'Hey, we have got to win two out of three here in Washington.' We're looking at it: We have to win today," Lohse said. "We've done a good job of that — winning just about every game we absolutely had to. And I think when you start doing that, you realize you can do that. Your confidence goes up."

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