Nationals vs. Cardinals: Six Game 2 takeaways, including unique history for Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez
The Nationals are two wins away from the World Series
On Saturday, the Washington Nationals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-1, in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. The Nationals now hold a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series, giving them a leg up as the setting shifts to D.C. ahead of Monday's Game 3.
Here are six things you need to know about Game 2.
1. Cardinals almost get no-hit, again
The Cardinals didn't record their first hit on Friday until there were two outs in the eighth inning. On Saturday, they didn't get their first knock until the seventh. That's when Paul Goldschmidt hit a liner to left field that Juan Soto played conservatively, permitting it to drop in a few steps ahead. It's unclear if Soto would have been able to secure the ball had he been more aggressive.
By flirting with no-hitters in back-to-back playoff starts, Scherzer and Sanchez made some unique and familiar history:
The main difference between Friday and Saturday is that Anibal Sanchez wasn't on the mound -- Max Scherzer was. Scherzer took advantage of whatever impact the shadows had on the opposition, shoving to the tune of seven strong innings and 11 strikeouts along the way.
Scherzer did permit a pair of walks, but he otherwise dominated. He generated 19 swinging strikes on 101 pitches, including nine on his fastball, which averaged 95 mph on the afternoon. He wasn't the only veteran starter who showed up on Saturday, either.
2. Wainwright delivers, too
This time around, Wainwright didn't keep the Nationals off the board, but he did keep the Cardinals in the game -- to the extent that manager Mike Shildt may have been too aggressive in permitting him to continue on.
Wainwright finished the afternoon with 7 1/3 innings, seven hits, and three earned runs. Just one of those runs (a Michael A. Taylor homer) came prior to the eighth. Likewise, three of the hits came in the eighth, and so did Wainwright's only walk -- of the intentional variety. He struck out 11 batters, which was the most he's ever had in a postseason appearance, believe it or not.
It's unclear if Wainwright will get another postseason start -- this year or ever again -- but if this was his last one, he went out on a high note.
3. Nationals bullpen does its job again
The Nationals' bullpen is the weakest unit on the team, but so far in this series they've avoided exposure thanks to strong starts from Sanchez and Scherzer.
On Saturday, Davey Martinez had to cover only two innings with relievers. He elected to use Sean Doolittle in the eighth, Patrick Corbin for a batter in the ninth, and then Daniel Hudson for the final two outs. The trio combined to give up two hits and a run -- and even that was due in part to a defensive miscue by Taylor.
That's about all there is to write about the Nationals' bullpen at this point -- and that's a good sign for Martinez and the rest of the Washington.
4. Taylor homers, makes defensive gaffe
We just mentioned Taylor's defensive mistake, but let's give him some credit for his third-inning home run that represented the first run of the day. Take a look:
Taylor is only in the lineup because of Victor Robles' hamstring injury. He made the most of his opportunity in the NLDS by going 4 for 12. After Saturday, he's now 2 for 8 in the NLCS.
5. What history says
For those wondering, the Nationals have math and history on their side now. According to ESPN Stats & Info, road teams to go up 2-0 in best-of-seven series in MLB postseason history have won 22 of 25 series -- or 88 percent. That is, obviously, less promising for the Cardinals.
6. What's next?
Sunday will be a travel day for the series, which will now move to D.C., beginning with Monday's Game 3. Remember, it's a 2-3-2 format, so the Cardinals will need to win at least two contests on the road to ensure another game in St. Louis. The expected pitching matchup on Monday is Jack Flaherty versus Stephen Strasburg, which ought to be a good one.
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