The Meaning of the Nats Being up 1-0 in NLDS

After Gio Gonzalez allowed two runs in the second inning without giving up a hit and the Nationals continued to leave runner after runner on base it looked like yesterday was not meant to be their's. In the seventh inning after an error, single, bunt, and strikeout Davey Johnson was able to coax the match-up he wanted out of Mike Matheny. Matheny brought in his one lefty to face Chad Tracy and then Davey pinch-hit for the pinch hitter with Tyler Moore. Moore delivered the big hit and put the Nats up 3-2 for good.

Winning that one game was nice, but it is even nicer because today's game is now almost meaningless. It means a lot to the Cardinals, but the Nationals have already done their job. The worst that can happen to the Nationals is that they head home with the series tied 1-1 while the worst that can happen to the Cardinals is they head on the road down 0-2. It is a lot worse to be the latter than the former. The Nationals suddenly have a true home field advantage in this series, but what does it all mean?

Over the course of the regular season the Nationals were 50-31 at home while the Cardinals were 38-43 on the road. Of the series played at Nationals Park the Nationals only lost five of them and were swept only once. So if the Nationals do win today they are looking at a very likely series win and if they lose today they are looking at a still likely series win. That first game was big and it puts all the pressure of today's game on the Cardinals. Going down 2-0 and then heading on the road for three straight games is not where the Cardinals want to be.

Over the course of the 2012 season Jaime Garcia pitched 121 2/3 innings with a 3.92 ERA and 3.27 K/BB ratio while Jordan Zimmermann pitched 195 2/3 innings with a 2.94 ERA and 3.56 K/BB. Both pitchers do not fair well against the opposition as current Nats are hitting Garcia .329/.383/.466 in 82 plate appearances and current Cardinals hit Jordan Zimmermann .342/.398/.500 in 85 plate appearances. Both Jordan Zimmermann and Jaime Garcia have had bad outings against the opposition just this season.

Back on August 30 Jaime Garcia gave up six earned runs over 5 1/3 innings pitched at Nationals Park, and a couple days later Jordan Zimmermann gave up eight earned runs over 3 2/3 innings pitched. Since those starts Jaime Garcia has gone at least six innings five times and given up three or less runs in those same five starts. His other start since then was three innings with four runs allowed at San Diego. Jordan Zimmermann since his bad start against St. Louis has gone at least six innings in four of his final five starts and allowed three or less earned runs in all of them, and the Nationals haven't lost a game he has started since that September 1 start against the Cardinals.

When it comes down to it the outcome of today's game means far more to the Cardinals than it does the Nationals. If the Nationals lose they will be coming home to a best of three series with every game being played on their home field. If the Cardinals lose then they have to go on the road and sweep a team that hasn't been swept at home since a June series against the Yankees. Winning this series won't be easy for the Nationals, but with that win yesterday they made it a lot harder on the Cardinals and if they can win today then things start to really look bleak for the defending champs.   

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