ST. LOUIS — Rookies in the postseason, the Nationals played like poised veterans.
The Nationals escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, Tyler Moore blooped a two-out, two-run single in the eighth and Washington beat the defending World Series champion Cardinals 3-2 Sunday in their NL Division Series opener on Sunday.
The Nationals have just four players with postseason experience on the roster, but now they have the lead.
"Not many people have probably watched too many Nationals games, but we have a great starting rotation and a great bullpen," said Ian Desmond, who singled for his third hit in the go-ahead rally. "They keep us in the ball game and some timely hits from this kid, and the rest of the guys coming off the bench, that's really been the formula."
The Nationals overcame a wild start by 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez. They limited the Cardinals to just three hits.
"All the credit in the world goes to the bullpen," Gonzalez said. "I've been saying it all year. The reason why we've been so successful is these guys come in and shut it down."
Rookie reliever Ryan Mattheus needed just two pitches to bail out the Nationals in the seventh with St. Louis ahead 2-1. Moore, another rookie, put them ahead soon after that, Tyler Clippard worked around an error in the eighth and Drew Storen saved it.
"This team is not hanging our heads," St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright said. "We can come back and win this easily."
The Cardinals wasted a 10-strikeout gem by Wainwright, failing to capitalize enough on Gonzalez's career-high-tying seven walks.
Mattheus diffused a bases-loaded, none-out threat in the seventh, getting Allen Craig to ground into a forceout at the plate, then inducing a double-play grounder from Yadier Molina. Craig led the NL with a .400 average with runners in scoring position and Molina batted .321 in those situations.
"It was a big moment," Mattheus said. "It gave us life. The guys said, 'Hey, we can win this ballgame.' "
Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma misplayed Michael Morse's grounder to open the eighth and set up the Nats' rally. Desmond followed with a single, putting runners at the corners. Danny Espinosa sacrificed, leaving runners at second and third, and Kurt Suzuki struck out. Moore then poked a single to right against Marc Rzepczynski and both runners scored.
"I was just trying to calm myself down and try to make some things happen and not strike out up there," Moore said.
Today's matchup 2012 Team 2012 Vs. Opp.
Team Pitcher Time W-L ERA Rec. W-L IP ERA
Washington Zmmermann (R) 4:3512-8 2.94 21-11 0-0 10.0 9.90
St. Louis Garcia (L) p.m.7-7 3.92 8-12 0-1 5.1 10.12