As was the case in the regular season, the Cards have thrived in one-sided ballgames but struggled in close ones. They were 21-26 in one-run regular-season games this year, and now have lost both in this series. They were 31-17 in games decided by five or more runs, and have won two such ballgames against the Nats during these playoffs.
But Thursday may have been more about the difficulty of scratching a run across against the Nationals than any other trend. St. Louis' only run was unearned and came in the third inning when Pete Kozma walked, advanced on a sacrifice bunt and an error, then scored on a sacrifice fly.
"This was a really competitive game," said first baseman Allen Craig, who registered two of the Cardinals' three hits Thursday. "It wasn't a game where each team had a bunch of hits and had a bunch of baserunners. We played pretty good defense and the pitching was good. We just couldn't break through. It was a great competitive game. Unfortunately we lost, but we'll come back tomorrow and get it done."
Ross Detwiler was fantastic for Washington (six innings, three hits, three walks, two strikeouts), and the bullpen corps of Jordan Zimmermann (three strikeouts in his first career relief appearance), Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen (each with a shutout inning and combining for five strikeouts) was more than formidable.
"The job they did -- they rose to the occasion," Nats manager Davey Johnson said. "All of them were throwing harder than I've seen them throw."
In their two losses this series, the Cards have been outscored 5-3. In their two victories, they've outscored the Nationals 20-4.
"We just didn't capitalize on opportunities," center fielder Jon Jay said Thursday. "That's what we've done in games we've won, and that's what we have to do tomorrow."