The St. Louis Cardinals are doing it again

912073.jpg

The St. Louis Cardinals are doing it again

From Comcast SportsNetWASHINGTON (AP) -- Set aside the high-pressure task of postseason pitching that Chris Carpenter routinely masters for the St. Louis Cardinals and think about this:Even the take-it-for-granted act of breathing feels odd on occasion now that he's missing a rib and two neck muscles.Taking the mound for only the fourth time in 2012 after complicated surgery to cure numbness on his right side, the 37-year-old Carpenter spoiled the return of postseason baseball to Washington by throwing scoreless ball into the sixth inning, and the defending champion Cardinals beat the Nationals 8-0 Wednesday to take a 2-1 lead in their NL division series."To go from not being able to compete, and not only compete but help your team, to be able to be in this situation," Carpenter said, "it's pretty cool."Rookie Pete Kozma delivered a three-run homer, and a trio of relievers finished the shutout for the Cardinals, who can end the best-of-five series in Thursday's Game 4 at Washington. Kyle Lohse will start for St. Louis. Ross Detwiler pitches for Washington, which is sticking to its long-stated plan of keeping Stephen Strasburg on the sideline the rest of the way."We're not out of this, by a long shot," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "Shoot, I've had my back to worse walls than this."With the exception of Ian Desmond -- 3 for 4 on Wednesday, 7 for 12 in the series -- the Nationals' hitters are struggling mightily. They've scored a total of seven runs in the playoffs and went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base in Game 3.Rookie phenom Bryce Harper's woes, in particular, stand out: He went 0 for 5, dropping to 1 for 15. He went to the plate with an ash bat and no gloves in the first inning, tried wearing anti-glare tinted contact lenses on a sun-splashed afternoon -- nothing helped."Nothing I can do," the 19-year-old Harper said. "I just missed a couple."All in all, quite a damper on the day for a Nationals Park-record 45,017 red-wearing, towel-twirling fans witnessing the first major league postseason game in the nation's capital in 79 years. They didn't have much to enjoy, in part because of the problems created by Nationals starter Edwin Jackson, who was on the Cardinals' championship team a year ago."I didn't feel like I was out of rhythm. I didn't feel like I couldn't throw strikes. I just missed across the plate with a couple of balls and it cost me," Jackson said.He gave up four consecutive hits in the second, the biggest being Kozma's first-pitch homer into the first row in left off a 94 mph fastball to make it 4-0. Kozma took over as the Cardinals' everyday shortstop in September, replacing injured All-Star Rafael Furcal, and only had 72 at-bats during the regular season.But he's only the latest in a series of "Who's that?" stars of this postseason.With the Capitol Dome rising beyond left field, the crowd of today was ready to root, root, root for the home team, breaking into chants of "Let's go, Nats!" after player introductions and again after a four-jet flyover. And, boy, did they boo -- when Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay was announced as the game's first batter, when first-base umpire Jim Joyce missed a call, when catcher Yadier Molina trotted to chat with Carpenter, even when Carpenter paused between pitches to tie his red-and-gray right shoe."Carp's been a dominant pitcher his whole career. Big-game pitcher. He showed up," Washington's Jayson Werth said. "He pitched well today. We had him in some spots. We had him on the ropes a couple of times. We were just one bloop away from a totally different ballgame."The Cardinals won 10 fewer games than the majors-best Nationals this season and finished second in the NL Central, nine games behind Cincinnati, sneaking into the postseason as the league's second wild-card under this year's new format. But the Cardinals become a different bunch in the high-pressure playoffs -- no matter that slugger Albert Pujols and manager Tony La Russa are no longer around.Carpenter still is, even though even he didn't expect to be pitching this year when he encountered problems during spring training and needed what Cardinals manager Mike Matheny termed a "radical" operation in July to correct a nerve problem."Everyone had written him off, kind of," Jay said. "It could have been a season-ending injury, where he could have just gone home and said, See you later.'"The top rib on Carpenter's right side was removed, along with muscles that were constricting blood flow up there. After Wednesday's game, he squeezed his big right hand with his left, explaining, "Basically, my nerves were getting squished down by all the scar tissue and all the muscles and everything. There wasn't enough space."Still adjusting to the way breathing feels different, he returned Sept. 21, going 0-2 in three starts totaling 17 innings, so it wasn't clear how he'd fare Wednesday.Yeah, right.Carpenter allowed seven hits and walked two across his 5 2-3 innings to improve to 10-2 over his career in the postseason. That includes a 4-0 mark while helping another group of wild-card Cardinals take the title in the 2011 World Series, when he won Game 7 against Texas.The 10 victories tie Carpenter for seventh-most, behind Andy Pettitte's record 19."If the baseball world doesn't know what an amazing competitor he is by now, they haven't been paying any attention," Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday said.Carpenter collected a pair of hits, including a double off the wall in the fifth that was about a foot or two away from being a homer. When he reached second base, he raised his right fist.Earlier, Carpenter stepped to the plate for his first at-bat and chatted with umpire Joe West."I say hello to him. And he said hello back, and he talked about what a beautiful day it was to play a baseball game. And I was like, You ain't kidding,'" Carpenter recounted. "Beautiful weather. The crowd is going crazy. ... There's no question you take time to reflect on that."NOTES:Holliday fouled a ball off his left leg in the eighth, stayed in to deliver a two-run single, then left for a pinch runner. ... Lohse beat the Braves in the wild-card game. ... Detwiler will be making the first postseason appearance of his career. His last regular-season start also came against the Cardinals, and he went only 2 1-3 innings, giving up seven runs. ... Wednesday was the 88th anniversary of Washington's only World Series championship, won by the Senators on Oct. 10, 1924.

Lowrie, Melvin ejected, Holliday's late homer dooms A's in loss to Yankees

Lowrie, Melvin ejected, Holliday's late homer dooms A's in loss to Yankees

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- Oakland rookie Jharel Cotton held the Yankees hitless until Matt Holliday launched a two-run homer with two outs in the sixth inning that sent resurgent CC Sabathia and New York to a 3-2 victory Saturday.

Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge was in the right spot for a pair of key catches to boost the AL East leaders, who won with just two hits.

Sabathia (5-2) has won three straight starts for the first time since April 2013. The 36-year-old lefty pitched into the seventh and struck out nine.

Dellin Betances escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam in the eighth, an inning that included the ejections of A's hitter Jed Lowrie and manager Bob Melvin for arguing strike three calls. Betances closed for his fifth save.

Cotton (3-5) was promoted from Triple-A Nashville before the game. He began the season in the Athletics' rotation but was sent down to the minors May 11 to refine his game.

Cotton's work on mixing his repertoire and throwing inside paid off. The 25-year-old righty hadn't come close to giving up a hit when he retired the first two batters in the sixth, yet he had thrown a lot of pitches.

After Gary Sanchez walked, Holliday homered. He connected on Cotton's 105th delivery, sending a drive to nearly the exact spot where Frankie Montas was warming up in the Oakland bullpen for a 3-1 lead.

Starlin Castro followed with a sharp single that finished Cotton, who struck out five and walked three in his 13th big league start. Cotton made his debut last September.

The last pitcher to throw a no-hitter against the Yankees all by himself was Hoyt Wilhelm in 1958 for Baltimore. In 2003, six Houston pitchers combined to no-hit the Yankees.

Ryon Healy hit an RBI double with two outs in the sixth that made it 1-all and took third on the throw home. Trevor Plouffe then lofted a fly to shallow right that Castro chased back from his second base spot - the ball popped out of his glove, right into Judge's mitt.

The 6-foot-7 Judge collided with beefy first baseman Chris Carter while swooping in to grab Chad Pinder's foul fly leading off the seventh. Judge's sunglasses went flying and Carter went down, but everyone was OK.

The Yankees scored in the first on a walk, a hit batter and Castro's sacrifice fly.

Josh Phegley homered off Sabathia in the seventh, pulling the A's to 3-2.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Athletics: 1B Yonder Alonso missed his third straight start because of a sore right wrist. Melvin said he hoped Alonso could play Sunday.

Yankees: Closer Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) made 25 throws from 60 feet, his first baseball activity in two weeks. He said he felt fine after the workout and that he will throw again Sunday. ... Slumping 3B Chase Headley will get a day or two off. "He's just frustrated and trying too hard," manager Joe Girardi said.

UP NEXT

Athletics: RHP Andrew Triggs (5-3, 2.77) is 1-2 with a 3.97 ERA in four May starts after going 4-1 with a 1.84 ERA in five April starts.

Yankees: RHP Michael Pineda (5-2, 3.35) has given up no more than three earned runs in his last eight starts.

Harbaugh goes Biblical, responds to Jacobs' criticisms of his coaching

Harbaugh goes Biblical, responds to Jacobs' criticisms of his coaching

Former NFL running back Brandon Jacobs spent one season with the San Francisco 49ers in 2012 under head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Jacobs only played in two games and gained seven yards on five carries. The results were nothing like his 5,087 yards and 60 touchdowns over eight years with the Giants. 

Apparently being pushed to the bench as a 31-year-old veteran running back didn't sit well with Jacobs. 

“Going somewhere where they don’t have route conversions into certain coverages was just absurd,” Jacobs said Thursday on the Tiki and Tierney Show. “They’re just running routes in the defense, getting people killed. Size and strength is what they had, and that’s why they won.

"Let’s be real. They had great assistant coaches, but Jim didn’t know what he was doing. Jim had no idea. Jim is throwing slants into Cover-2 safeties, getting people hurt. That guy knew nothing, man."

On Saturday morning, Harbaugh responded to Jacobs with a tweet to him. 

Harbaugh went 44-19-1 in four seasons as the 49ers' head coach. He also added five playoff wins and a trip to the Super Bowl in the 2012-13 season, the one that Jacobs played for him.