ST. LOUIS — The Washington Nationals gained the early National League Championship Series edge over the St. Louis Cardinals, and they will look to build on it behind Max Scherzer in Game 2.
After earning a 2-0 road victory over the Cardinals in Game 1 on Friday night, the Nationals will start their ace right-hander Saturday afternoon at Busch Stadium.
Scherzer (1-0, one hold, 2.77 ERA in three postseason games) had a hand in two victories over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series. He pitched an inning of scoreless relief in Game 2 and he won Game 4 as the starter, allowing one run in seven innings. That came after he got a no-decision in Washington’s victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL wild-card game.
He is 2-6 with a 3.31 ERA in 11 career starts against his hometown team. Scherzer has been especially successful against Yadier Molina (1-for-17) and Paul Goldschmidt (2-for-25) in his career.
Scherzer went 0-2 with a 5.27 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals this season, including a 5-1 loss on Sept. 18, when he gave up five runs in 6 2/3 innings.
“It’s fresh in mind what pitches they can hit,” Scherzer said. “And watching … how they handled the bat and how to navigate their lineup, it’s going to be a tough fight, I know that.
“At the same time, this is the postseason, this is the NLCS, you can … almost throw it out the window because everybody’s playing at a higher level. I knew the Brewers lineup, but the Brewers came out with a whole different approach, and that was a completely different team.”
The Cardinals hope they have a new approach after being limited to one hit by Anibal Sanchez and Sean Doolittle in Game 1. In their previous game, they beat the Atlanta Braves 13-1 in Game 5 of their NLDS.
“We scored 13 in an elimination game and came right back and (Sanchez) threw a great game,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “But there’s … nothing but optimism about all our players and our offense for sure. We’ll be ready to go (Saturday).”
The Cardinals will start Adam Wainwright, who threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Braves in Game 3 of the NLDS. The Cardinals lost that game 3-1, but Wainwright did not factor in the decision.
He went 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in two starts against the Nationals this season and 10-4 with a 3.10 ERA in 17 career games (15 starts) against them.
Wainwright has fared well against Anthony Rendon (1-for-16) but not as well against Ryan Zimmerman (12-for-34, five doubles, two homers) and Adam Eaton (6-for-11, double, homer, three RBIs).
Matching up against Scherzer has his full attention.
“Competing against him is like Christmas for me,” Wainwright said. “He’s one of the best competitors out there, one of the greatest pitchers of our generation for sure. I think he’s probably going to be a Hall of Famer, and it’s just a privilege to get to compete against him.
“Certainly any time you’re competing against a guy like that, you know you’ve got to put zeros up. Our offense is very dynamic, there’s a lot of people that can do cool things, but a pitcher like Max is capable of going out and shutting anybody out.”
The Nationals expect to have closer Daniel Hudson back in the bullpen. He missed Game 1 on paternity leave after his wife gave birth Friday, but he is scheduled to fly to St. Louis on Saturday morning.
–Field Level Media