ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals enjoyed a typical high-output day against Jordan Zimmermann. The bats came alive when they needed it most.
Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso homered early to build a nice cushion and Carlos Beltran added two long shots in a 12-4 rout over the Washington Nationals on Monday night that evened the best-of-five series at a game apiece.
"If we get things going, we feel like we can carry the team," Craig said. "As you saw tonight, we put a lot of good swings on the ball and really drove the ball. It was a lot of fun."
The Cardinals chased Zimmermann after three innings, his shortest outing of the season, and took care of business in what could be the final home game of the season. A day after managing just three hits, there was no carry-over.
"You've got to be confident," third baseman David Freese said. "We're one of the few teams left. They still think they can take the series, and so do we."
Johnson said Zimmermann, pitching on eight days' rest, relied too heavily on outside fastballs that the Cardinals were able to time. The right-hander's next-shortest outing this year also was against the Cardinals, when he coughed up a four-run, first-inning cushion and was chased after yielding eight runs in 3 2-3 innings during a 10-9 loss at home.
He's 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA in five career regular-season starts against St. Louis, which was 3 for 5 with runners in scoring position against a pitcher who led the majors in holding opponents to a .160 average in that category.
The Cardinals had more than enough to compensate for a two-inning start from an ailing Jaime Garcia, who had an MRI exam for a shoulder injury. The lefty missed two months with shoulder fatigue during the season.
"I don't know how it happened, I don't know when it happened," Garcia said. "I'm just hoping it's not too bad."
Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche hit consecutive homers in the fifth for the Nationals, who head home for the remainder of the series. The NL East champions are without All-Star ace Stephen Strasburg, shut down for the rest of the season early last month to protect his surgically repaired arm.
"I miss him not experiencing this with us and he misses not experiencing it with us," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "But we did the right thing, there's no question.
"He'd have been the guy that opened the series."
Game 3 is Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park, the first postseason contest in the nation's capital since the original Senators played the New York Giants in the 1933 World Series. Edwin Jackson starts for Washington against longtime Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, who made only three starts during the regular season because of injury.
"You hate to get blown out, but you get walked off, it probably hurts a little bit more," the Nationals' Jayson Werth said. "The game was out of reach for a while.
"No big deal, a loss is a loss. We'll head home and feel good about it."
Jackson pitched on the Cardinals' World Series title team last fall before signing a free-agent deal with Washington.