The 2012 NL divisional playoff between the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals has come down to a winner take all game five. It will be played at Nats Park on Friday night at 8:35 p.m. The winner will advance in the 2012 MLB playoffs to the NL championship series. There they will face the San Francisco Giants.
The deciding contest will be a rematch of game one starting pitchers. St. Louis will send Adam Wainright to the mound while Washington will counter with Gio Gonzalez. Wainright went 5 2/3 innings in game one. He gave up one run on six hits while walking three. Wainright left with the Cardinals leading 2-1.
Gonzalez did not get off to a good start in his last outing, but was able to hold St. Louis to two runs on one hit. He walked seven. Gonzalez pitched five innings and left trailing 2-1. A two out, two run single by Nationals pinch hitter Tyler Moore in the eighth took him off of the hook and Gonzalez did not figure in the decision.
This has been an interesting series. The Cardinals have outscored Washington 23-9 in four games. They have won their two games by scores of 12-4 and 8-0. Meanwhile, Washington has won two low scoring games of 3-2 and 2-1. It just goes to show that the cumulative score of a series doesn’t mean a thing. All that matters is who outscores their opponent by one run the most.
If we are to go by what we’ve seen so far it is obvious that the Nationals have been struggling at the plate. They have yet to score more than two runs in an inning. Four of their last six runs have come on solo homers. If Washington’s bats continue to remain silent Gonzalez will have to be on his game and can’t let St. Louis get to him early.
The Cardinals have hammered both Nationals right handed starters that they have faced in Jordan Zimmerman and Edwin Jackson. They have not done as well against lefties Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler. In game four, Detwiler held St. Louis to one unearned run in six innings.
In their two victories the Cardinals scored early then tacked on runs over the course of the game. In the two losses they stayed close and lost late. St. Louis has had a chance to win every game while Washington has not.
It would be foolish to count out either team going into game five. Whenever two teams meet in a playoff each has a 50-50 shot to win. It could be the Nationals whose bats awaken and they win in a blowout. Or it could be the Cardinals getting the big hit late and winning a low scoring affair. One thing we do know is all hands will be on deck in the bullpen as there will be no pitches to waste.
Just as in their do-or-die game four situation Washington will have to summon all of their effort in order to beat the world champions from St. Louis. The Cardinals will not give it away and are going to keep the pressure on from first inning to last. The young Nationals will have to play smart baseball to win.
The guess here is that manager Davey Johnson will have Washington ready. They will give St. Louis a run for their money.
The question is can the Nationals score one more run than the Cardinals?