Jordan Zimmermann hopes to send the Washington Nationals home with a commanding two games to none lead in the National League Division Series on Monday when they play Game 2 against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Washington drew first blood in this best-of-five series on Sunday when pinch- hitter Tyler Moore delivered a two-out, two-run single in the top of the eighth inning to help the Nationals to a 3-2 come-from-behind win.
Moore's clutch hit came after Nationals reliever Ryan Mattheus (1-0) worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the bottom of the seventh.
Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen set St. Louis down the rest of the way to nail down the first playoff contest involving a Washington team since the Senators participated in the 1933 World Series, as well as the Nationals' postseason debut since moving from Montreal following the 2004 season.
The Expos participated in only one playoff series in their 36-year residence in Montreal, losing in five games to the Dodgers in the 1981 NLCS.
"You know, I think there's going to be some new history in Washington from here on out," said Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond.
Adam Wainwright struck out 10 batters over 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball for St. Louis, but was let down by his team's bats as well as its defense.
Mitchell Boggs (0-1) was charged with the two eighth-inning runs, both of which were unearned due to a fielding error by rookie shortstop Pete Kozma. The Cardinals also went hitless in eight at-bats with men in scoring position and stranded a total of 10 runners for the game.
"We had opportunities to win this and put more than the couple runs that we had up there," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "And we have been very good lately in situations, getting situational hitting done, and today it just didn't work."
Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, who won a league-best 21 games during the regular season, walked seven batters and allowed two runs and a hit in five innings of work.
On Monday, the Nats turn to Zimmermann, who was 12-8 with a 2.94 ERA in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery. Zimmermann made a career-high 32 starts and ended the year strong, going 3-0 in six September starts.
"I really never get nervous for any game," he said. "The only game I really got nervous for was my debut, and I don't see anything changing this time."
Zimmermann, though, did struggle against the Cards this season, pitching to a 9.90 in two starts against them. However, after getting pounded for eight runs in 3 2/3 innings against them back on Sept. 1, he limited the Cardinals to three runs in 6 1/3 frames in his final regular season start on Sept. 29.
"It's going to be tough to shut them completely down," said Zimmermann. "They are going to get their runs, but you've just got to keep it to a minimum and try to get out of jams as best you can when you're in a tight spot. You're going to give up a home run here and there, but hopefully they are just solos."
St. Louis will counter with lefty Jaime Garcia, who will be making the sixth postseason start of his big league career. Garcia was 0-2 with a 4.21 ERA in five starts during the Cardinals' championship run a year ago, but he allowed only six runs over 21 2/3 innings in St. Louis.
"It definitely helps a little bit because you've been out there in a situation like we are right now," he said. "You take what you learned from last year, but you know, I'm just going to try to do the same thing that I try to do every time I go out there. I just give my best and give my team a chance to win. That's all I basically worry about."
Garcia ended his regular season on a high note, as he won his final three starts en route to a 7-7 ledger and a 3.92 ERA.
Lifetime against Washington, Garcia is 2-1 with a 3.74 ERA.
"They are good," Garcia said. "Like I said, they got a really good group of guys that can swing the bat really good. I'm just going to prepare myself really good mentally and watch some videos and things that I need to do. The bottom line is just go out there and give it my best shot and try to keep us in the game."
St. Louis took two of three from the Nationals over the final weekend of the regular season, but Washington won the season series, 4-3. Three of Washington's wins, though, were at home.