NLDS Game One starter Gio Gonzalez went 5.0 innings against St. Louis on Sunday afternoon, giving up just one hit but seven walks and two runs in the Washington Nationals' 3-2 win.
On Monday in Game Two in Busch Stadium, the Cardinals won big, 12-4, with seven of their 13 hits and five of their 12 runs off the Nationals' Game Two starter Jordan Zimmermann, who got knocked around by the Cards and was out after 3.0 IP.
Edwin Jackson's last start vs the NL's Wild Card entry came on September 28th in the Cardinals' home.
The Nats' 29-year-old right-hander surrendered six hits and nine runs, eight earned, that day, in a 12-2 loss in Missouri. Two days later, Ross Detwiler faced the Cards in the third game of the Nats' final road series of the regular season. The Nationals' 26-year-old, '07 1st Round pick lasted just 2.1 innings, allowing four hits and seven runs, five earned, before he was lifted in what ended up a 10-4 loss as St. Louis took two of three from Washington.
Asked yesterday, before the Nationals left the Midwest, if he was worried about having E-Jax and Detwiler lined up for the third and fourth games of the 2012 NLDS, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson said, "No."
"They're quality pitchers," the Nats' manager said, "Jackson's got a lot of experience. He pitched a heck of a ballgame against the [Cardinals] one of the outings. He's certainly up for it." The outing the 69-year-old skipper was referring to here was E-Jax' previous start against St. Louis on August 30th, which saw him give up one unearned run in 8.0 innings of work in which he K'd 10 Cardinals.
Returning to the reason he'd cited for Jordan Zimmermann's rough start in Game 2, though it applied to what had happened to both Jackson and Detwiler last time out in St. Louis, Johnson told reporters yesterday, "You have to pitch. You can't go out there and just throw against this ballclub. This is a good fastball hitting club. You have to mix in your pitches."
Asked if Jackson, in particular, had anything to learn from what happened to Zimmermann, the Nationals' skipper said Jackson, "Is a very experienced pitcher," but Detwiler, he said, "At times has gotten into the same mode [as Zimmermann], hard sinkers away. He's got great offspeed stuff, and when he uses offspeed stuff, and when he uses both sides of the plate, he's tough. I don't care how good a hitting club you got. But this is part of the maturation process of this staff."
Edwin Jackson knows what he's getting into, however, as he told reporters this afternoon in Nationals Park. "It's a great hitting ballclub," Jackson said, "I mean, you have guys 1-9, they can hit the ball real well. You have to come out and be aggressive and not let them get comfortable. If you let those guys get comfortable it can be a long day on the mound for any of our pitchers." The starters, Jackson continued, set the tone for the bullpen as well, so he said he thought it was imperative, "... for us to go out and establish command and establish control of the game so when we do hand it over to [the bullpen] they can come in more comfortable."
As for what he can take from the starts he's made against St. Louis this year, Jackson told reporters, "You look at the first outing, I was aggressive. I was throwing strikes. I was in the strike zone. I was ahead. The second start I wasn't. I mean, it's pretty simple. It's all about throwing strikes and coming out and establishing that you're going to throw strikes early in the game. And make them want to swing. Like I said, if you get behind in the count to these guys and let them get comfortable and they know you have to come across the plate, they're going to do what they're paid to do and they can hit the ball real well."
Jackson's opponent on the mound in Game Three, the Cards' Chris Carpenter, who made just three starts in the majors this year after returning from surgery to treat, "Thoracic outlet syndrome after experiencing weakness in his neck and pitching shoulder during spring training," has a (6-1) record in 12 career starts against the Nationals/Expos in which he has 11 BB (1.20 BB/9), 63 Ks (6.89 K/9) a 3.39 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and .301 BAA in 82.1 IP. The 37-year-old, 15-year veteran has a lot of respect for his opponent though, as he told reporters today. "These guys on the other side," Carpenter said, "There's a reason why they won as many games as they did all year. They're throwing out some pretty good caliber pitchers themselves, with a pretty good offense."
"This is a nice team to compete against," Carpenter said, "Because they all compete pretty much the same way as our team competes and that's hard every day, fair, and they play the game the right way. So it's going to be an interesting next two out of three. It will be a lot of fun. I think we line up good, but I also am not going to say that they don't [too], they've got some quality guys."
1:00 pm EDT in the nation's capital tomorrow.