Game One of this NLDS was an incredible snapshot of the game of baseball: no matter how hard you try, you can’t pin it down. Baseball will not conform to whims of anyone. Not the lords of probability nor the geniuses determined to bend those probabilities to their will. No amount of regression or bunting or platoon splitting really matters: the game happens as it will.

The Nationals played a very dangerous game, allowing so many base runners and walking the razor’s edge all afternoon long. The Cardinals are a talented bunch, with an American League (read: actually quite good) style offense.

The Cardinals squandered the performance of a lifetime by Adam Wainwright, amassing an incredible 10 strikeouts in less than six innings pitched thanks to 16 huge swinging strikes.

With Jaime Garcia on the mound, the Cardinals offense might not have the same margin for error on Monday. With Jordan Zimmerman on the hill, the Cardinals cannot expect the same boatload of free passes Gio Gonzalez offered on Sunday.

The Cardinals give themselves a fighting chance as the series heads back to D.C. The vaunted St. Louis offense shows its teeth: no need for bunts and trickery when the good old long ball will do the trick. Both teams obviously demand more from their starting pitchers, which side is more likely to provide it? Below the jump is the blow-by-blow of the Cards big 12-4 victory.

Pregame!

NATS CRADS
Werth rf Jay cf
Harper cf Beltran rf
R.Zimmerman 3b Holliday lf
LaRoche 1b Craig 1b
Morse lf Molina c
Desmond ss Freese 3b
Espinosa 2b Descalso 2b
Suzuki c Kozma SS
J.Zimmermann p Garcia p

Jordan Zimmerman usage:

Zimmerman’s pertinent info: 2.94 ERA/3.51 FIP, 43.4% ground ball rate, 8.1% whiff rate, 19.0% K/5.3% BB. He’s good! Career low walk rate in 2012,

Jaime Garcia usage:

Garcia info: 3.92 ERA/2.97 FIP, 53.7% ground ball rate, 11.6$ whiff rate, 19.0% K/5.8% BB in just 20 starts. I may or may not love Jaime Garcia.

First Inning!

This whole thing just won’t go away, mostly because I refuse to allow it to do so.

“Bob, you talk about these shadows…” OH YOU DID? MUSTA MISSED IT, FFS.

The Shadows are getting another workout on the broadcast. To combat them (?), Bryce Harper did this to his face.

If you care about the amount of eye black Bryce Harper wears, may I suggest going to hell? It did, however, give rise to this:

Jaime Garcia works around two walks in the first, looking pretty good with all things considered. The second walk, to Adam Laroche, came on a debatable check swing call. Threw 25 pitches (I think) which is still kind of a lot.

And they say the Nationals beat writers are less than impartial…even if he is right. Zimmerman makes quick work of the Cards in the first, needing just 13 pitches to dispatch them in order. To the second!

Second Inning! 4-1 Cards

It seems as though we have shadows all wrong here. It isn’t the batters who are disadvantaged, it is left-handed pitchers. Jaime Garcia does his best Gio Gonzalez impression by walking Danny Espinosa here in the second inning after Ian Desmond led off with a single.

After striking out Kurt Suzuki, the Nats get cute against Garcia. Jordan Zimmerman shows bunt but pulls it back, slapping the ball into shallow right field. Beltran fields and stops, as Nats third base coach holds up the stop sign.

Nobody bother telling Ian Desmond to bother stopping, however. The Nationals shortstop runs through the stop sign but scores thanks to Beltran’s hesitation. Ugly stuff, 1-0 Nats! Blame Beltran but for real this time.

Garcia battles out of a big inning, throwing another (estimated) 75 pitches before striking out Bryce Harper (again) to end the inning. Natitude means running through stops signs because you JUST KNOW the fielder is going to triple clutch on his throw. NATITUDE!

The Cards get right to work, knocking consecutive singles to start their half of the second inning. Then David Freese does what David Freese does: smack extra base hits in the playoffs! Freese smacks a long drive off the right field wall which scores Craig, tying the game at 1! Molina moves up to third on the double, the Cardinals still without any outs.

Another hard-hit ball by the Cardinals, this one from Daniel Descalso drives in Yadi Molina! Runners on the corners, two runs in, still nobody out! 2-1 Cards!

Welp. That does it for Jaime Garcia. Struggling so badly and his spot due up in a big spot (in the second inning, mind you) and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny pulls the plug. Skip Schumaker will pinch hit with runners on the corners and one out. Lance Lynn figures to take over on the hill for the Cardinals. A reliever-turned-starter-turned-reliever who also pitched yesterday.

Schumaker gets credit for the RBI after Ian Desmond makes a great play to rob him of a hit. The run, obviously, still counts and the Cardinals now lead 3-1.

More offense from the Cardinals, this time on a bloop over the infield from Jon Jay. Descalso scores just before Jay is thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. Inning over, damage done. 4-1 Cards with Lance Lynn coming on to pitch.

Third Inning! 5-1 Cards

Lance Lynn doesn’t waste any time, striking out the first Nationals hitter he faces. Lance Lynn is good though lefties tend to give him trouble. Interesting to see if Bryce Harper can translate any of his “good at bat, bad result” mojo into something more tangible.

Lynn records his second strikeout of the inning, setting down FUTURE NATIONAL STAR Ian Desmond to end the Nats half of the inning.

Kaboom! Allen Craig yanks a high home run down the left field line, sneaking it just inside the foul pole! The Cards jump out to a 5-1 lead after Jordan Zimmerman looked like the first inning guy all over again.

That is the same guy as the “toothpicks” tweet above, if you’re keeping track. Yadier Molina just singled off the glove of Future National Star Ian Desmond, extending Jordan Zimmerman’s nightmare inning until some fine glove work by Ryan Zimmerman closes the door. Many runs in, J.Zimmerman’s day might be done.

Fourth Inning! 7-1 Cards

Defense matters! Daniel Descalso makes a nice shovel pass to record the first out of the Nats fourth. Lynn records his third strikeout in rapid succession, setting catcher Kurt Suzuki down with a pea at the knees. Roger Bernadina pinch hits so Jordan Zimmerman’s day is OVAH! Craig Stammen will relieve.

Shortest start of Jordan Zimmerman’s career, for what that’s worth. The shadows work in mysterious ways. They appear to give Lance Lynn superpowers, he has has four strikeouts in two innings of work. Stud.

The shadows are so bad, the Cardinals just hit another home run and have now scored more runs than both teams combined yesterday! Noted shadow slugger Daniel Descalso — he of four regular season dingers — hits this one out to put the Cards up 6-1!

All shadows everything!

You know, it probably just isn’t the Nationals day. Pete Kozma followed Descalso’s big fly with a walk, allowing Lance Lynn to graciously give himself up for the cause. Bunting with two strikes, Lynn got a decent effort down to move the runner along.

Kozma wasn’t content with one base though as he took off running for third on the very same play. The Nats sort of stood around and watched as he advanced 180 feet on a 25 foot bunt. Then Jon Jay knocked a ball through the drawn-in infield to run the score to 7-1 Cardinals. Woof.

Christian Garcia comes in to relieve Craig Stammen, who only retired the guy who gave himself up. A stolen base and a walk end Stammen’s day. Garcia gets the first man he faces out and also makes Parkes’ heart go pitter-patter. Craig strikes out and the inning, mercifully, is over.

Fifth Inning! 7-3 CRADCORE

Bryce Harper strikes out again, running his personal WPA tally to -.079. Poor kid, it is almost like he’s 19-years old with barely a full season under his belt. Nice job by Lynn to change the kid’s eye level for the fastball whiff, Lynn’s five strikeout against just one walk and one hit.

Make that two hits as Ryan Zimmerman deposits a Lynn offering into the left-field bullpen. 7-2 Cards and the shadows go down by TKO. Hey now. A third hit, another home run, this one by Adam Laroche! 7-3 Cards with the Nats coming slowly back to life.

Those two home runs raised the Nats win expectancy all the way up to…8%. Two more fly balls ends the inning. 7-3 Cards through four and a half.


Source: FanGraphs

In my amateur opinion, the best way to build on your team scoring two runs in their half of the inning is to walk the first two batters you face in the bottom half. It just makes sense. I get you, Christian Garcia.

A 6-4-3 double play rinses most of the bad walk taste out of the Nationals’ collective mouth, though the play at first was a little closer than it looked. Either way, Christian Garcia is one out from putting up a zero, by hook or by crook.

Sixth Inning! 8-3 CRADS

Wow. I don’t think the Cardinals miss Colby Rasmus too much. Insane catch by Jon Jay against/inside the grill of the centerfield fence. Probably the best catch of the postseason if you forget Werth’s from yesterday or Jason Heyward’s from Friday.

Joe Kelly, the new Cards pitcher, is a happy young man indeed. Two more quick (if a little loud) outs later and the Nats are done in their half of the sixth.

Blame Beltran again! Blame him for denting the facing of the upper deck, that is. That is where he just sent his moonshot in the sixth inning. Batting right-handed, Beltran hits his 12th career post-season plate appearance. But that one strikeout!

Seventh Inning! 8-4 Cards

Just when you think we might be spared pitching change after pitching change, the Nats put their first two runners on in the 7th. Bryce Harper’s first career post-season hit is a hustle double. First of many, he pointlessly asked with no fear of reprisal.

Wow. Bryce Harper makes a…curious base running error (or ERA, as Dick Stockton would say.) Ryan Zimmerman sends a fly to left field, allowing Jayson Werth to tag and score. Because he’s a dreadful outfielder, Matt Holliday butchers the throw back into the infield, a bouncing/rolling number to nobody in particular.

Harper decides to make his move for third base, which would be fine had Daniel Descalso not retrieved the baseball in plenty of time to throw Harper out at third base. Two down. Ugh. Not a good use of an out when down by four runs. Or anytime, for that matter.

Your stretch music is Desmond Dekker, in honor of National Star Being Born Ian Desmond.

The Cards go down in order to close the seventh in but, from our friends at Baseball Nation, comes giffery of Matt Holliday’s bizarre throw to prompted Bryce Harper to take off for third base. Can’t say that I blame you, Bryce.

Eighth Inning! 12-4 Cards

No lead is safe, is seems. Up four but with a day off tomorrow, Mike Matheny is going with his “A” relievers trying to close this one out. Mitchell Boggs comes in for the Cards and gives up a leadoff single to Mike Morse. But of course!

Another flare single and some “questionable” defense by the Cardinals go for naught, as Boggs gets two fly outs and a lazy pop up to retire the Nationals, who have but three outs left to their names.

The Cards start hitting the ball hard and the Nats start to kick it around a little. Charitable double, scorer’s triple, and then ANOTHER BOMB BY CARLOS BELTRAN. 11-4 Cards, Carlos Beltran for Mayor of October.

Adam Wainwright feels our pain. The Nats are in a world pain. Mike Morse continues the defense matters theme, costing the Nats another run with some butchery in left field. 12-4 now with only three more outs to record.

Ninth Inning! 12-4 Cards

It’s over! Trevor Rosenthal emerges from the Cards bullpen to close this one out in the true Kimbrel Style – three strikeouts and a seeing-eye single. Trevor Rosenthal throws very, very hard.

The Cards even the series at 1 apiece but need to win two games in Washington if they want to move on. Bud Selig might just be on to something!