Instant analysis: Cardinals 12, Nats 2

Instant analysis: Cardinals 12, Nats 2
September 29, 2012, 3:14 am
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Game in a nutshell: Not a whole lot to say about this one, other than to point out how bad Edwin Jackson was during a miserable 1 13 innings on the mound. The right-hander was torched for nine runs (eight earned), putting his team in a 9-1 hole in the second inning. Not much else mattered after that, with Davey Johnson pulling seven of his eight regulars (everyone except Danny Espinosa), choosing to live to fight another day. And yet the night really wasn't a lost cause for the Nationals, because Lucas Duda's 3-run homer in Atlanta led the Mets to a 3-1 win and spoiled Chipper Jones Night for the Braves. Thus the Nationals somehow managed to get blown out yet still see their magic number drop to 2. Which means they can clinch the NL East title tomorrow night with a win plus another Braves loss. Kind of takes the sting out of this ugly performance, doesn't it?

Hitting lowlight: It's tough find much motivation when you step to the plate trailing by eight runs, so it's hard to find too much fault with the Nationals' hitting approach in this one. They did get a couple of nice at-bats in the top of the first out of Bryce Harper (who doubled) and Adam LaRoche (who battled through a 10-pitch encounter with Adam Wainwright to poke an RBI single). That was the 95th run Harper has scored this season, so he needs five more in the season's final five games to become only the second teenager ever to score 100 runs.

Pitching lowlight: In his defense, Jackson wasn't helped by his defense in the first inning, with Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman bobbling the ball. And he allowed a couple of soft singles. But that doesn't overshadow everything else the right-hander did wrong. He walked four batters. Uncorked two wild pitches. Threw only 25 of 56 pitches for strikes. Faced 15 batters and retired only three of them (one a 380-foot bomb to the warning track, another a double play hit by the pitcher). Thus continued Jackson's difficult September. He's now got a 7.92 ERA in five starts this month. His season ERA jumped from 3.77 to 4.13 in this outing alone. That's not easy to do this late in the year. The way things are trending, you certainly have to think Ross Detwiler will be Davey Johnson's No. 3 starter in the postseason, with Jackson bumped to the fourth slot.

Key stat: With his first-inning RBI single, LaRoche now has 99 for the season. That's one shy of his career high, set in 2010 with the Diamondbacks.

Up next: It's the moment you've been waiting 79 years to experience: Washington's baseball club has a chance to clinch a title tomorrow night. Jordan Zimmermann will face Kyle Lohse at 7:15 p.m. EDT, hoping to earn his 13th win, and hoping the Mets can beat the Braves again and secure the NL East crown for the Nationals.