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October 9, 2012

Cardinals draw even

ST. LOUIS — Three hits and an excruciating loss one day, double-digit runs and a laugher the next. The St. Louis Cardinals have been that type of team all season.

The defending World Series champions tied their NL division series with Washington at one game apiece by doing what they do best — forgetting about what happened the day before and concentrating on the game at hand. They lost the division series and NLCS openers last year, and look how that turned out.

Carlos Beltran hit the last two of the Cardinals’ four homers and St. Louis chased an ineffective Jordan Zimmermann early in a 12-4 rout of the Nationals on Monday.

“We know this offense has the potential to do this,” Cardinals rookie manager Mike Matheny said. “It was nice to see this, and hopefully it becomes contagious and the guys just keep going.”

Daniel Descalso and Allen Craig also went deep to help the Cardinals build a big lead that compensated for a two-inning start from an ailing Jaime Garcia. Craig hit his fifth career postseason homer and scored three times.

“If we get things going, we feel like we can carry the team,” Craig said. “As you saw tonight, we put a lot of good swings on the ball and really drove the ball. It was a lot of fun.”

Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche hit consecutive homers in the fifth for the Nationals, who head home for the remainder of the best-of-five series. But the NL East champions are without All-Star ace Stephen Strasburg, shut down for the rest of the season early last month to protect his surgically repaired arm.

“I miss him not experiencing this with us and he misses not experiencing it with us,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “But we did the right thing, there’s no question.

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