After their overwhelming 12-4 victory Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals served notice that they will not go away quietly. In fact, it appeared as if they have no designs on going away at all.
The Cardinals did what they had to do, rapping out 13 hits, seven for extra bases, and taking the must-win Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the sloppy Washington Nationals at Busch Stadium.
The series shifts to Nationals Park for Game 3 at 12:07 p.m. Wednesday. Chris Carpenter, 0-2 in just three regular-season starts but possessing an impressive postseason resume, gets the ball for the Cardinals against former teammate Edwin Jackson.
Carpenter, 37, returned from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery late in the season and made three starts. Carpenter was 4-0 in the postseason last year and is the Cardinals' winningest postseason pitcher with nine victories.
"I didn't know if I was going to have this opportunity or not," Carpenter said. "Fortunately, I do. I'm looking forward to it. If you're not excited about pitching in a game like this, there's no need to play this game.
"This is what it's all about --coming out and having an opportunity to pitch in the postseason, when everything matters, and hopefully do the best you can to give your team a chance to win."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny could have gone with Kyle Lohse in Game 3, since Lohse is on full rest after his start Friday in Atlanta. Instead, Lohse will work Game 4 on Thursday.
"It comes down to wanting to get Carp on the mound and trying to figure out where it fits best," Matheny said. "We didn't want to drag it on too far out, realizing what he brings in experience, what he brings with the success he's had in the postseason and in his career, in general.
"You could just as easily throw him Game 1 and (Game) 5, with what he's done in his career. To me, he's been better every time he's thrown. But this is what we felt gave us the best chance."
The Nats were 50-31 at home this season and will have the support of a capacity crowd that hasn't had playoff baseball in 79 years.
"I've only been over there once," said Cardinals third baseman David Freese, who was 1-for-3 with a double Monday. "Electric park. The fans get into it. That's going to be a blast. I've been fortunate the last two seasons playing in great parks with great fans in the postseason. It's going to be on fire. It's a must-win, regardless of the fact we won (Monday).
"You've got to be confident. We're one of the few teams left. Even though Washington lost, I'm sure they're still confident. They still think they can take this series, and so do we. ... Washington's going to be ready to go. This is a time not to let up."
St. Louis was 1-3 against Washington in the nation's capital this season, but the Nationals suddenly seem vulnerable in their bullpen in addition to their one-dimensional offense.
The Nationals rely heavily on hitting home runs, and the Cardinals have exploited their free-swinging style in the first two games by racking up 24 strikeouts in 18 innings. Washington has yet to attempt a stolen base, and it has just one sacrifice bunt.
After Monday, the Cardinals are re-energized with the confidence that marked their dramatic postseason run in 2011. St. Louis has outscored the Nationals 40-19 in the last five games and have scored at least 10 runs three times.
"It's going to be a good challenge for us going to Washington for some games," said first baseman Allen Craig, who was 3-for-5 with a double and a homer Monday. "(We need to) get the job done."
Jackson (10-11) pitched well against the Cardinals on Aug. 30 in Washington, a game the Nationals won 8-1. Jackson, who was with the Cardinals last year at this time, went eight innings and allowed only one unearned run, with two walks and 10 strikeouts.
But the Cardinals battered Jackson on Sept. 28 at Busch Stadium in a 12-2 win. Jackson lasted just 1 1/3 innings and permitted nine runs (eight earned). St. Louis scored five in the first and four in the second.
"It's a great-hitting ballclub," Jackson said of the Cardinals. "You have guys, one through nine, who can hit the ball real well. You have to come out aggressive and not let them get comfortable. If you let those guys get comfortable, it can be a long day."
Jackson said he knows why he was so ineffective in his second assignment against the Cardinals.
"You look at the first outing, I was aggressive throwing strikes," he said. "The second start, I wasn't. It's all about throwing strikes."
Nationals manager Davey Johnson hopes being at home will aid Jackson, one of four players on Washington's roster with postseason experience.
"Jackson's got a lot of experience," Johnson said. "He pitched a heck of a ballgame against them in one of the outings. He's certainly up for it. But you have to pitch; you can't go out there and just throw against this ballclub. This is a good fastball-hitting ballclub. You have to make some good pitches."
Carpenter is 6-1 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 career starts against the Nationals. He has pitched just one previous time at Nationals Park, on Aug. 26, 2010, and had a no-decision in the Cardinals' 11-10 loss.
"Ultimately, this game comes down to one thing, and that's executing pitches --on my side," Carpenter said. "If I can make pitches, and I do it the right way, I'm going to have success."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.