WASHINGTON - Pete Kozma hit an early three-run homer, and Chris Carpenter pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings as the Cardinals defeated the Nationals 8-0 in Game 3 of the National League Division Series Wednesday afternoon before 45,017, the largest crowd in Nationals Park history.
The Cardinals lead the best-of-five series 2-1, and they can clinch another berth in the NLCS with a win in Game 4 Thursday.
St. Louis, as it did in Game 2, got its bats rolling in a big way. The Cards jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first two innings and took the boisterous Washington crowd out of the game. Wednesday was the first time the District of Columbia had hosted a playoff game since 1933.
The Cardinals started quickly against Nationals right-hander Edwin Jackson (0-1). After the former Cardinal got two outs in the first, Matt Holliday singled. Allen Craig followed with a double down the left-field line that scored Holliday all the way from first to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead.
Kozma broke the game open in the second. After a double by David Freese and a single by Daniel Descalso, Kozma launched his first home run of the postseason, a three-run shot off Jackson to give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.
"We had a runner on third less than two outs," Kozma said. "I was just looking for the first pitch in the zone and put it out in the outfield. It went over the fence."
The Cardinals have scored nine runs in the second inning in the first three games of the series.
"Through their lineup, anyone of those guys can hurt you," Jackson said. "It just so happens, (Kozma's hit) ended up being a big hit. After that, you just try to salvage the rest of the game and keep it close and continue to battle."
St. Louis added another run in the sixth against right-hander Craig Stammen thanks to a Descalso sacrifice fly. That made it 5-0.
Holliday's two-run single in the eighth completed the scoring.
All of that was more than enough for Carpenter (1-0). He was outstanding from the start, getting a dozen fly ball outs to slow the Nationals. Ian Desmond went 3-for-4, including a double, and Ryan Zimmerman had two hits, but the Nationals left 11 men on base and wasted a number of good scoring chances.
"We weren't the best team in baseball for no reason," Desmond said. "We got a good group of guys here and there is no doubt we believe in ourselves. It is just about coming out and doing the job tomorrow."
Carpenter was effective in just his fourth start since recovering from shoulder surgery.
"I feel good," Carpenter said. "My stuff is good and it continues to get better. My body still is making some adjustments throughout the game, but besides that I feel good."
The Nationals have left 30 men on base in the first three games of the series.
Washington's best chance against Carpenter came in the fifth inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, Michael Morse flew out to right field and the Nationals stranded three more.
Jackson lasted five innings, but the four runs and six hits allowed in the first two frames cost him the game.
Game 4 Thursday will feature the Cardinals' Kyle Lohse against the Nationals' Ross Detwiler.
NOTES: Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler is excited about starting Game 4 Thursday. "My last couple of starts (it has been) what not to do. Watching all the games I have seen you get hurt when the ball is up in the zone when you are behind in hitters' counts. You try to stay out of those as much as you can." ...Manager Davey Johnson expects second baseman Danny Espinosa to be able to rebound from a slow start. "It is just that inexperience and being overly aggressive. He needs to be more patient. I think you will see a different hitter here," Johnson said. ... Lohse said it is important to "learn how to control the counts and control my emotions and go out there and treat it like any other game. That is one of the toughest things to do is to mentally block out everything else. Not worry about anything other than making the pitches I need to do to be successful, and those are things you learn over time through experience." ...Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that Lance Lynn was not available for Game 3 but he would not rule out Lynn for Game 4 or 5. ....Former Nationals manager and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson threw out the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday.