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Monday, October 8, 2012
Key to romp: offense scores, defense soars

By ESPN Stats & Information

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesJon Jay made a catch in Game 2 that would have made any Cardinals legend proud.
The St. Louis Cardinals' best-in-the-NL offense was on full display in Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals.

Once again it was Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann who felt the wrath.

Few teams have been able to hit Zimmermann this season, but the Cardinals have had no trouble with him.

Let’s take a closer look at his struggles and the other factors that led to the Cardinals evening this series, 1-1.

Zimmermann’s bad hand of Cards
Zimmermann has an 11.08 ERA in three starts against the Cardinals this season. In 185 2/3 innings against everyone else, he has a 2.57 ERA.

The curveball and slider that typically net him three outs for every baserunner allowed have not been effective against the Cardinals.

In those three games, the Cardinals have 12 hits/walks against Zimmermann’s breaking pitches. He has gotten only 13 outs with those pitches.

Monday, he gave up three hits with his breaking pitches and netted only one out.

Zimmermann’s issues led to him to throw his fastball more often than in any other start this season (49 of 63 pitches, 78 percent of the time).

Also unusual for Zimmermann was that he threw first-pitch strikes to only six of 15 hitters. His 40 percent first-pitch strike rate was his lowest of his career.

Zimmermann ranked second in the majors in first-pitch strike percentage during the regular season (69 percent).

How important was the lack of first-pitch success?

Zimmermann fell behind nine hitters 1-0 and gave up hits to six of them. He retired all five hitters against whom he was ahead in the count 0-1.

For whom the Beltran tolls
Carlos Beltran’s two home runs made him the first player in major league history to have a multihomer game in the postseason for three different teams (Beltran also had them for the Houston Astros and New York Mets).

Beltran’s three multihomer games in postseason play are tied with Manny Ramirez for the second-most.

Babe Ruth leads in that category with four multihomer postseason games (including a pair of three-homer games.

But as the chart on the right shows, Beltran has an edge on Ruth (at least to this point in his career) in career OPS in postseason play.

Beltran’s 13 career postseason home runs have come in his first 25 postseason games. That’s the most of anyone within 25 playoff games. Next-most is Nelson Cruz with 11, and Lou Gehrig, Duke Snider and Troy Glaus with nine.

Ruth had only four, but remember: He started his postseason career as a pitcher.

Bryce Harper’s rough day
Bryce Harper whiffed four times, making the 19-year-old the youngest player to have four strikeouts in a postseason game.

Braves catcher Brian McCann held the previous “record” with a four-strikeout game at age 21 in the 2005 NLDS.

Harper is 1-for-10 in the series with six strikeouts. All six whiffs have come against pitches on the outer-half of the plate.

The Cardinals' strategy is pretty clear. Their pitchers have thrown him 49 pitches in this series. Of those, 41 were on the outer-half of the plate, or off the outside corner.

Play of the Game: Jay’s Catch
Jon Jay made an incredible leaping catch up against the fence in the sixth inning to take away an extra-base hit.

During the regular season, the video-review team at Baseball Info Solutions credited Jay with 24 “Good Fielding Plays” (plays that required beyond an ordinary effort) on fly balls and line drives. That was tied with Angels outfielder Mike Trout for second-most in the majors.

Ichiro Suzuki was credited with a major league-leading 26 “Good Fielding Plays” on flies and liners.

Quirky Stat of the Day: Two to Tango
The Cardinals are 9-1 all-time in Game 2s of league division series. The Braves are the only team to have played in at least five division series since 1995 to have a better Game 2 record. They are 11-1 in Game 2 of the series.