Nats starting to need more from the starters

ST. LOUIS - After three days in chilly Missouri, it's back to the DMV.

I'm waiting at my gate for a 7:45 a.m. CT flight, which should get me back home just in time to shower, hop in my car and head to Nationals Park for today's optional workout and media availability. The Nats got home late last night and will take the field today, take some BP and get treatment on various bumps and bruises.

We'll hear from Edwin Jackson after the workout, the guy who will get the ball for the Nats tomorrow in Game 3.

The formula for much of the season, the formula which led the Nationals to the best record in baseball, was to lean on their starting pitching and get enough offense to pick up wins.

They had five starters with double-digit wins. They had four starters with ERAs of 3.40 or less. The starting pitching was the key, even once the bats really awoke midway through the season.

Over the first two games of the National League Division Series, the Nationals' starting pitching hasn't exactly been stellar. Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann have gone a combined eight innings, surrendered seven runs and allowed 15 hitters to reach base.

"The last two starts haven't been good for us," Zimmermann acknowledged yesterday.

Of course, that's not all on the top two Nats starters. The Cardinals had the best on-base percentage in the majors during the regular season and possess a potent middle of the order and legitimate depth from 1-8 in the lineup.

These hitters work counts, foul off tough pitches and mash mistakes.

jackson pitch red close sidebar.jpg"Obviously they didn't make some pitches when they needed to and got behind some guys," Ryan Zimmerman said. "But that team is a very good offensive team. And for us to win two more games at home, we're going to have to do something to obviously hold them down to less than 12 runs. (Sunday,) they did a pretty good job. That's a good team, but our pitchers have been good all year, and we have confidence in them."

The weight will fall on Jackson on Wednesday afternoon, a guy who got rocked by the Cardinals in a Sept. 28 start in St. Louis when he went 1 1/3 innings and allowed nine runs. His previous start against the Cards, however, he worked eight innings and allowed just one unearned run, striking out 10.

Ross Detwiler will then get the ball for Game 4. Detwiler had by far his worst start of the season against the Cardinals his last time out, allowing seven runs (three earned) and five walks over just 2 1/3 innings at Busch Stadium. The positive news with him is that he's much better at home, posting a 2.59 ERA this season at Nats Park, compared to 4.38 on the road.

Neither Jackson nor Detwiler did much to contain these same Cardinals hitters a couple weeks ago, but the Nats say those outings mean nothing now.

"I think you can throw that away definitely," catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "Jackson threw eight shutout innings against them at home before that, and Detwiler's been lights-out. I don't think that has any bearing. Like I said, this is the postseason. It's a fresh start, and everybody starts from scratch. You've just gotta go out there and get the job done."

That starts with Jackson.

"We got Edwin going on Wednesday, and he's going to go out there and send a message," Zimmermann said.

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