WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nobody deals with loss better than the St. Louis Cardinals. While there is much consternation in the capital about the idled star Stephen Strasburg, the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, playing without Lance Berkman and Rafael Furcal (not to mention Albert Pujols), spoiled the first D.C. playoff game in 79 years with an overwhelming performance that brought them to the cusp of the NLCS.
Chris Carpenter, who's getting to be a fall staple, returned just in time following a near season-long absence, to outduel a struggling-from-the-start Edwin Jackson, who is no Strasburg. Very early in the Cardinals' 8-0 victory that put them up 2-1 in games in the Division Series, there was a Natitude issue, as Nats fans, who waited a long time for a postseason, started booing early.
There's been a stray quote or two from the Nats' clubhouse about how they'd be doing better with Strasburg. That may be so (though Jordan Zimmerman, who was rocked in Game 2, and Jackson still would have started games). No matter, they might be better off if they simply forgot Strasburg and played the way they did when they won 98 games in the regular season.
The Cardinals don't discuss the absence of injured veterans Berkman and Furcal, and even Pujols talk is down to a whisper. Furcal's replacement, the widely-unheralded Pete Kozma, continued his surprise heroics with a three-run home run off Jackson into the leftfield stands that all but suffocated the enthusiasm Nats fans felt early.
Carpenter, who started only two games after returning from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, is said to feel better now than he did last year when he won Game 7 of the World Series for the Cardinals. He retains his ability to gets out when needed, as the Nationals were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position against him alone.
Carpenter pitched the Cardinals to a World Series championship last year when another Cardinals star pitcher Adam Wainwright was out for the year. The difference with Strasburg is that he was shut down by the Nationals when he reached a predetermined innings limit.