NLCS Game 2: Nationals take control of series behind Max Scherzer's gem

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor

Pitching, pitching and more pitching. That’s been the theme of the National League Championship Series.

For the second straight game, the Washington Nationals pitching was just a little bit better than that of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Behind Max Scherzer’s seven scoreless innings, Washington took control of the NLCS with a 3-1 victory in Game 2. The Nationals now lead the series 2-0 and will head home with a chance to secure their first trip to the World Series in the next three games at Nationals Park.

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Like Aníbal Sánchez in Game 1, Scherzer carried a no-hit bid into the late innings. Paul Goldschmidt broke it up with a clean single leading off the seventh, but Scherzer quickly closed the door by getting an inning-ending double play from Yadier Molina. It was the only hit Scherzer allowed. The Nationals ace struck out 10 and walked two.

Washington’s offense couldn’t get much going against Cardinals’ starter Adam Wainwright in the early going. Michael A. Taylor connected for a first-pitch home run leading off the third inning, but that was all the Nationals could muster until a clearly tiring Wainwright faltered in the eighth. That’s when Adam Eaton provided breathing room with a two-run double. Wainwright was charged with three runs on seven hits over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out 11.

St. Louis got on the board when Taylor misplayed Jose Martinez’s line drive to center field, allowing Paul DeJong to score. Sean Doolittle, who picked up a four-out save in Game 1, bounced back to escape that jam. Returning closer Daniel Hudson retired Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna to end the game.

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer during the fourth inning of Game 2 of the baseball National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer during the fourth inning of Game 2 of the baseball National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE

• Max Scherzer: How’s this for déjà vu? For the second time in their MLB careers, Sánchez and Scherzer flirted with no-hitters in back-to-back postseason starts. The first time happened in the 2013 American League Championship Series as members of the Detroit Tigers.

The Tigers went on to lose that series. A reminder that two games do not make a series in the MLB postseason. But it speaks to how good both pitchers have been and can be on the big stage. In this postseason, Scherzer has allowed one run over his last 18 innings.

• Michael A. Taylor: The Nationals are getting big production from the eight spot this series. After Yan Gomes reached base three times and drove in a run in Game 1, Taylor followed with a multi-hit performance in Game 2. In addition to his home run, Taylor also singled. Fortunately for Washington, Taylor’s offense overshadowed his defensive blunder.

• Adam Eaton: This has been a rough postseason for the Nationals right fielder. Eaton entered Saturday hitting .200 through seven games, but delivered a clutch two-run double to provide some much-needed insurance. Eaton followed that up with a nice running catch in the bottom of the eighth inning to prevent an even bigger Cardinals’ rally.

MUST-SEE MOMENT

With so little offense to speak of, there aren’t too many moments that qualify as must-see. Taylor’s third-inning home run ended up being enough, but Eaton’s double was the dagger.

WHAT THEY'LL BE TALKING ABOUT

Will these lineups ever come around? It’s less a concern for the Nats given how dominant their pitching has been, but they also can’t reasonably expect these low scoring games to keep going their way. The Cardinals’ performance has been flat abysmal through two games. St. Louis’ starting players have gone 2-55 in the series.

WHAT'S NEXT

The scene shifts to Washington D.C. for Game 3 on Monday. First pitch is scheduled for 7:38 p.m. ET. The Cardinals will turn to ace Jack Flaherty in their bid to get back in the series. The 23-year-old right-hander has been next to unhittable since the All-Star break, having allowed just 14 earned runs over this last 17 starts including the postseason. The Nationals will counter with Stephen Strasburg. In two NLDS starts against the Dodgers, Strasburg allowed four earned runs over 12 innings while striking out 17 batters.

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