The Washington Nationals learned that they will play the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Divisional Series. St. Louis defeated the Atlanta Braves 6-3 in a one game play-in Friday to advance. The Nationals will travel to St. Louis for games one and two starting Sunday afternoon, then return home for game three on Wednesday.
Washington played St. Louis seven times in the regular season. They won three out of four at home in late August. On the last weekend of the regular season the Nationals lost two out of three to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Since the Nationals have only won one series over St. Louis in new Busch Stadium, going on the road for the first two games could be a problem. If Washington loses games one and two they would have to win three straight at home to advance. It can be done, but the Nationals probably need a split on the road in order to have any chance of advancing to the NL Championship Series.
Besides the Cardinals having the first two games at home, the biggest advantage is their experience.
Washington will be making its first ever post-season appearance. They will be facing the defending world champions. As far as matchups go, this is one between two franchises that are complete opposites of one another. The Cardinals have a rich post season tradition with an NL record 11 world championships. The Nationals franchise has been to the post season only once, as the Montreal Expos, in 1981.
The Nationals will have their work cut out for them. Since last season St. Louis is on a playoff roll having won the World Series and one game playoff. The Cardinals are a resilient team that fights until the last out. They fell behind Atlanta 2-0 on the road and came back to win.
Washington has shown many of the qualities St. Louis possesses in 2012. The Nationals have battled back to win many games. They have a lineup that is strong from top to bottom. Washington can win close low scoring games or slug fests.
Washington will start left-hander Gio Gonzalez in game one against Adam Wainright. Jordan Zimmerman will face Jaime Garcia in game two. Gonzalez went the distance against St. Louis and Wainright on August 31 shutting them out 10-0. Zimmerman faced the Cardinals twice. He only lasted 3 2/3 innings on September 1. In St. Louis he pitched six strong innings before faltering in the seventh and leaving with a 4-3 lead.
If Washington can get at least a split in St. Louis they have a very good chance of winning the series. The Nationals are 50-31 at home this season, while St. Louis is 38-43 on the road.
The main thing that the Nationals have to do is continue playing good baseball. The team which won 98 games has to show up to the park every day. They have to continue getting good starting pitching and defense. They must continue to hit the ball well and at crucial times.
If the Nationals just continue to do the little things they should be okay.
It is time to meet in St. Louis and get the show on the road.