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Place: Nationals Park, Washington, District of Columbia
The first playoff game in Washington in 79 years did not go exactly as planned. If the second one isn’t much better, then the city won’t get a third.
The St. Louis Cardinals will be looking to close out the best-of-five series behind Kyle Lohse on Thursday. The Washington Nationals, who trail 2-1, will try to find some offense and even things up. The Nationals have stranded 30 runners in the series and were shut out in Game 3.
Washington’s offensive issues are most apparent in rookie Bryce Harper, who is 1-for-15 in the series, and Adam LaRoche (1-for-11), leaving Ryan Zimmerman on an island between them in the lineup. The Cardinals have been able to jump on Washington’s starters quickly in the last two games, exploding for four runs in the first two innings of each contest.
That breathing room has given St. Louis manager Mike Matheny the luxury of setting up his bullpen and going to it at the first signs of struggle from his starter. Matheny also has a hot lineup, with Carlos Beltran and David Freese each batting over .400 in the series.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cardinals RH Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA) vs. Nationals LH Ross Detwiler (10-8, 3.40)
Lohse is part of the reason St. Louis is in the NLDS after striking out six and yielding two runs in 5 2/3 innings to earn a win against the Atlanta Braves in the wild card game.
The right-hander posted his two worst starts of September against Washington. Lohse was reached for a combined 12 runs (nine earned) on 17 hits in 11 2/3 innings but did not factor in the decision in either game. LaRoche, Danny Espinosa and Michael Morse each homered off Lohse while Harper went 3-for-6.
Detwiler will be making his first start since Sept. 30 and did not instill a lot of confidence in Nationals fans during his last two turns. The 26-year-old was knocked around for 12 runs (eight earned) in 7 1/3 innings in that span, issuing eight walks and three home runs.
The ugliest one came against St. Louis, when Detwiler walked five in just 2 1/3 frames. Beltran reached him for a two-run homer in that game. Detwiler, who grew up a Cardinals fan in Missouri, has been at his best at Nationals Park, posting an 8-2 record with a 2.59 ERA.
1. Washington has not dropped back-to-back games at home since falling to Philadelphia on July 31 and Aug. 1.
2. Cardinals LF Matt Holliday fouled a ball off his left leg in the eighth inning on Wednesday. He stayed in and delivered a two-run single but was lifted for a pinch runner after limping down the line.
3. Nationals SS Ian Desmond is having a strong series offensively, going 7-for-12, but went 0-for-6 against Lohse in the regular season.