Stras­burg Ks 12, Nats top Cards 8-1; 1 win from World Series

The Saline Courier - - SPORTS - As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON — More than 100 pitches in, Stephen Stras­burg was adamant he wasn’t quite ready to leave the lat­est su­perb start by a Na­tion­als pitcher against the St. Louis Car­di­nals in the NL Cham­pi­onship Series — a win that put Wash­ing­ton on the verge of the city’s first World Series in 86 years.

It was the sev­enth in­ning, and man­ager Dave Martinez no­ticed Stras­burg had flexed his right leg and reached for that ham­string. So the skip­per and a trainer went to the mound to check on their guy.

“I was try­ing to ex­plain to him, ‘Hey, you just grabbed your ham­string, so there’s a lit­tle con­cern,’” Martinez re­called. “He said, ‘No, I cramped up. It’s fine. I al­ways cramp up.’ He said, ‘I’m stay­ing in the game. I want to fin­ish this in­ning.’ I said, ‘You sure you’re all right?’ He said, ‘I’m in the game!’”

The right-han­der did, in­deed, stay in. Even struck out the next two bat­ters to raise his to­tal to 12 Ks, each fin­ished with an off-speed pitch. Stras­burg took his turn si­lenc­ing the Car­di­nals’ strug­gling bats, Na­tion­als post­sea­son star Howie Ken­drick dou­bled three times and drove in three more runs, and Wash­ing­ton took a 3-0 lead in the be­stof-seven NLCS by beat­ing

St. Louis 8-1 Mon­day night.

“It’s a lit­tle sur­real,” re­liever Sean Doolit­tle said about be­ing one win from the World Series, “and I think that’s why it’s im­por­tant that we don’t look too far ahead.”

Af­ter Na­tion­als starters Aníbal Sánchez and Max Scherzer flirted with no-hit­ters in the first two games against the Car­di­nals, Stras­burg wasn’t quite that un­touch­able: He al­lowed a dou­ble in the sec­ond in­ning, six later sin­gles and one un­earned run.

Still, the Car­di­nals, quite sim­ply, can’t score in this NLCS: They have a grand to­tal of two runs and 11 hits through three games. Wash­ing­ton’s three starters have a com­bined ERA — no cal­cu­la­tor nec­es­sary for this one — of 0.00.

Yes, that’s zero-pointzero-zero.

“We ex­pected bet­ter,” said Kolten Wong, who went 0 for 4 on Mon­day and is 0 for 10 in the series for St. Louis.

Now it’s Pa­trick Corbin’s chance to see if he can match his ro­ta­tion-mates. The $140 mil­lion lefty will start for the Na­tion­als in Game 4 on Tues­day night, when they can close out a sweep at home. Rookie right-han­der Dakota

Hud­son will be on the mound for the Car­di­nals.

“We’ve got to get a lead at some point in this series. Hard to win a game if you can’t get a lead,” St. Louis man­ager Mike Shildt said. “We’ve got to fig­ure out a way to cre­ate some of­fense early in the game and be able to hold it there.”

Wash­ing­ton hasn’t put a base­ball team in the World Series since 1933, when the Se­na­tors lost to the New York Giants in five games. The na­tion’s cap­i­tal owns only one MLB cham­pi­onship; the Se­na­tors won all the way back in 1924. There wasn’t even a base­ball team at all in Wash­ing­ton for more than three decades un­til the Mon­treal Ex­pos fran­chise moved to town be­fore the 2005 sea­son and was re­named the Na­tion­als.

Un­til this sea­son, the Na­tion­als hadn’t won a play­off series, go­ing 0-4 since 2012, but they sure look as if they’re mak­ing up for lost time.

“Shoot, maybe we’re fi­nally com­ing around,” third base­man An­thony Ren­don said.

How about this cur­rent run? The Na­tion­als, who found them­selves at 19-31 in late May, have won 15 of their past 17 games, stretch­ing back to the last week of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

It all starts with the pitch­ing.

“That’s what our team is built around. You have those guys, those horses, that take the ball every fifth day,” said Ryan Zim­mer­man, who drove in two runs. “They haven’t dis­ap­pointed, ob­vi­ously, in the post­sea­son, but they’ve kind of been the back­bone of this team all year.”

Against Sánchez in

Game 1, the first hit for the Car­di­nals ar­rived with their 27th bat­ter. Against Scherzer in Game 2, it was their 21st bat­ter. But even when the Car­di­nals did some­thing right against Stras­burg, they erased it by do­ing some­thing wrong.

Their fourth bat­ter, Mar­cell Ozuna, dou­bled to the left field cor­ner in the sec­ond, then quickly erased him­self with some poor baserun­ning, go­ing too far to­ward third on a come­backer and get­ting tagged out by Stras­burg, who is en­joy­ing a post­sea­son to re­mem­ber.

He was the No. 1 over­all pick in the 2009 am­a­teur draft, then was in­fa­mously shut down be­fore the play offs three years later to pro­tect his sur­gi­cally re­paired right el­bow. Stras­burg is now hale and hearty, throw­ing 117 pitches Mon­day, his most since to­tal­ing 118 in a May 2017 game.

And this sort of Oc­to­ber ex­cel­lence is what the Na­tion­als were hop­ing for: Stras­burg has a 3-0 record and 1.64 ERA, with 33 strike­outs and one walk — he didn’t is­sue a free pass Mon­day — in 22 in­nings this post­sea­son.

Much to the de­light of a red towel-twirling crowd of 43,675, Wash­ing­ton’s bat­ters kept de­liv­er­ing, led by Ken­drick, who has eight RBIS in the past four games.

The Na­tion­als roughed up Jack Fla­herty for four runs, all in the third in­ning; he hadn’t al­lowed that many in a game since July 2, a span of 18 ap­pear­ances.

Seven of Wash­ing­ton’s eight runs came with two outs, and there were con­tri­bu­tions from up and down the lineup: Vic­tor Robles home­red in his re­turn from a ham­string in­jury, and Ren­don heard “MVP!” chants af­ter a slick de­fen­sive play and an RBI dou­ble.

“We haven’t been able to play our brand of base­ball in full,” Shildt said. “We haven’t been able to get in rhythm or sync, but we still have more base­ball to play.”

TRAINER’S ROOM Na­tion­als: Robles, the Na­tion­als’ cen­ter fielder, missed five post­sea­son games with a strained right ham­string he hurt in Game 2 of the NLDS.


Corbin took the loss in each of Wash­ing­ton’s two de­feats this post­sea­son. One was a start — in Game 1 of the NLDS, when he al­lowed just one un­earned run with nine strike­outs — and one came in re­lief. Corbin also came out of the bullpen to re­tire one Car­di­nals bat­ter in Game 2 of the NLCS on Satur­day.

In his only post­sea­son start, in Game 4 of the Car­di­nals’ NLDS against At­lanta, Hud­son al­lowed one earned run in 4 2/3 in­nings and did not fac­tor in the de­ci­sion as St. Louis won 5-4 in 10 in­nings.


Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als start­ing pitcher Stephen Stras­burg throws dur­ing the first in­ning of Game 3 of the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Series against the St. Louis Car­di­nals on Mon­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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