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Nationals hope to make home-field advantage pay off

The SportsXchange

The Nationals will have plenty of motivation Wednesday in Game 3 of their National League Division Series -- first postseason game in Washington since 1933, pivotal game with the series tied 1-1, eager to make amends for their 12-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2.

But with that motivation comes the knowledge that they were one of six teams that won at least 50 of 81 home games this season -- and the final three games of the series, if three are needed, will be at Nationals Park.

"They don't call it home-field advantage for nothing," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman told The Washington Post. "... We feel very comfortable playing at home. We're a good home team and we put ourselves in a good position to come home and just win a series. If we can do that like we've done a lot of times this year, then we'll be sitting pretty."

The Nationals will need a better performance from their starting pitcher Wednesday, right-hander Edwin Jackson, than they got from more heralded Jordan Zimmermann in Game 2. Jackson is no stranger to the postseason -- he was with the Cardinals last season during their run to winning the World Series -- but was only 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA for a team that had the best record in the majors and for his career is 70-71 with a 4.40 ERA and has pitched for seven teams in his 10 seasons.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, have an even messier pitching situation on their hands now that left-hander Jaime Garcia, who left Game 2 after two innings because of a sore shoulder, is off the roster for both the rest of this series but also the NL Championship Series if the Cardinals get there. An MRI revealed that he has inflammation and a strained rotator cuff, and he was replaced on the roster by Shelby Miller.

Not only is the Cardinals' starting rotation jumbled by the loss of Garcia. His decision to not tell anyone about recent shoulder discomfort before Game 2 didn't sit well with teammates, according to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"Several teammates were incensed to learn that Garcia started such a monumental game if indeed compromised physically," the newspaper reported. "A faction within the organization has remained skeptical about the severity of Garcia's condition despite a June diagnosis that he was suffering from an impingement and strain that required more than two months' rest and rehabilitation."

General manager John Mozeliak stopped short of criticizing Garcia, saying, "You still have to admire the fact that he wanted the ball. Obviously, we try to promote transparency when it comes to the medical side. For whatever reason, we didn't get all the details. He tried. That's all we can ask."

The Cardinals' Game 3 starter, Chris Carpenter, has had injury issues of his own this season. He underwent nerve surgery on July 19 to ease pressure on his neck and right shoulder but since returning has pitched well in three starts (3.71 earned run average). However, he is 0-2 and the team is 0-3 in those games.

If the Cardinals proceed further on the playoff trail, they probably will insert Lance Lynn, an 18-game winner, into the rotation. Lynn, who has relieved in all three Cardinals postseason games, got the win on Monday with three innings of strong relief.

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