ST. LOUIS — Carlos Beltran hit the last two of the Cardinals’ four homers and St. Louis chased an ineffective Jordan Zimmermann early in a 12-4 rout of the Washington Nationals on Monday that tied their NL division series at one game apiece
Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso also went deep to help the defending World Series champions build a big lead that compensated for a two-inning start from an ailing Jaime Garcia. Craig hit his fifth career postseason homer and scored three times.
Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche hit consecutive homers in the fifth for the Nationals, who head home for the remainder of the best-of-five series. But 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.
Game 3 is Wednesday afternoon at Nationals Park. Edwin Jackson starts for Washington against longtime Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, who made only three starts during the regular season because of injury.
“Today, for us, was a must-win game,” Beltran said.
The Cardinals seem to live for those. They lost the division series and NL championship series openers last fall, then finished strong in the World Series after spotting Texas a 3-2 lead.
So, they’re on familiar ground.
There were no lineup changes in Game 2 of the division series, just a lot more clutch hitting from players accustomed to October pressure.
Beltran homered twice in the postseason for the third time in his career, connecting in the sixth off Mike Gonzalez and eighth off Sean Burnett. Jon Jay had two hits and three RBIs, plus an outstanding catch at the center-field wall to deprive Danny Espinosa of extra bases in the sixth.
St. Louis was 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position in Game 1 and totaled just three hits. The Cardinals had five hits in a four-run second Monday, Descalso hit his first postseason homer in the fourth a day after getting robbed by Jayson Werth’s leaping catch at the right-field wall, and Beltran’s drive off Gonzalez in the sixth banged off the facade in the third deck in left, estimated at 444 feet.
Shadows didn’t seem to be as big of an issue in Game 2, which started 1½ hours later than the opener, creeping past the pitcher’s mound around the third inning. Both teams had issues with playing conditions after the opener.
Late last season, after complaints from Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman, the Cardinals said they’d try not to schedule late afternoon games that might be affected.
Zimmermann lasted a season-low three innings while pitching on eight days’ rest. His next-shortest outing also was against the Cardinals, when he was gave up a four-run, first-inning cushion and was chased after yielding eight runs in 3 2-3 innings in a 10-9 loss at home.
The numbers weren’t favorable for the 25-year-old right-hander prior to first pitch, given he’s 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA in five career regular-season starts against the Cardinals. They were 3 for 5 with runners in scoring position against a pitcher who led the majors by holding opponents to a .160 average.
Nationals batters made contact on just four of Garcia’s 24 pitches in the first, threatening with a pair of walks. Garcia went to a full count on five of his first eight hitters, and threw 51 pitches in two innings while surrendering Zimmermann’s RBI single in the second.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Garcia was pulled because his arm didn’t feel right. Garcia missed time this season with a shoulder problem.
The Cardinals had 18-game winner Lance Lynn warming up in the second and the right-hander stood on the bullpen mound during St. Louis’ four-run answer in the bottom half. Pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker stood on the top dugout step while Pete Kozma struck out for the first out in the second and it was no decoy, with Schumaker contributing a run-scoring groundout to the rally.
St. Louis opened the second with four straight hits, singles by Craig and Yadier Molina that set the table followed by an RBI double from David Freese and a run-scoring single from Descalso.
NOTES: Cardinals RHP Jake Westbrook, rehabbing from a pulled oblique, will leave the team for a few days to be with his wife, due to deliver the couple’s fourth child. GM John Mozeliak said it’s “not likely” that Westbrook, a 13-game winner, will be able to pitch this fall. ... Beltran’s last two-homer game in the postseason was Oct. 15, 2006, with the Mets against St. Louis in the NLCS. ... The Cardinals matched the franchise high for runs in a division series game. They also scored 12 in 2002 against Arizona.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.