WASHINGTON -- Prior to Wednesday, the last time right-hander Edwin Jackson faced the Cardinals was Sept. 28. He lasted 1 1/3 innings and allowed nine runs in a 12-2 loss.
In Game 3 of the National League Division Series, the Cardinals scored early and often against Jackson as they blanked the Nationals, 8-0, at Nationals Park.
The Nats now trail the NLDS two games to one and need to win Game 4 on Thursday or be eliminated from the postseason.
It was the perfect day for a baseball game. It was a clear day and the sellout crowd of 45,017 brought energy to the ballpark. It was the first playoff game in D.C. since 1933, when the Washington Senators played in the World Series.
"It was great. It was second to none," shortstop Ian Desmond said about the atmosphere. "The fans were excited. They haven't had a playoff game in a while, but 45,000 strong. It was unfortunate that some of them were leaving in the seventh or eighth inning. I don't blame them. We should have given them a better showing."
Like Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann before him, Jackson was pitching with more than five days' rest. On Tuesday, Jackson said he wouldn't have any problems pitching on six days' rest.
"At this point in the season, you're focused on one thing, and that's going out and having success in the game. You're not really thinking about how many days or how long you've had off," Jackson said. "At this point, it's pretty much all or nothing, and worrying about days off is the last thing that's on my mind."
But like Gonzalez and Zimmermann, Jackson was ineffective, pitching five innings and allowing four runs on eight hits.
It all started in the first inning. With two outs, Allen Craig doubled near the left-field line, scoring Matt Holliday to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead.
In the following inning, Pete Kozma delivered the biggest blow, hitting a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw to make it a four-run game.
"It was supposed to be away, and I missed middle in," Jackson said about the homer to Kozma.
Jackson said pitching on six days' rest had nothing to do with his ineffectiveness. The Cards were just aggressive at the plate.
"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 that cost me," Jackson said. "The Cardinals were coming out and being aggressive. We've seen that from the beginning. They are not waiting around for you to get strike one. They coming up getting pitches early in the count."
It also helped that the Cards were familiar with Jackson, who was a member of St. Louis' World Series-winning club in 2011.
"We faced Edwin the last week of the season and had a pretty good idea [of what we wanted to do]. We had a good plan against him and we executed," said catcher Yadier Molina. "Obviously, we know everything about him. The main thing is to execute. That's what we did tonight."
The Nationals had opportunities to score against Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter, but they left 11 runners on base. In the first inning, the Nats had runners on first and second with one out, but Adam LaRoche hit into a force play and Michael Morse struck out to end the threat.
Four innings later, Washington had the bases loaded with two outs, but Morse flied out to right fielder Carlos Beltran to end the threat.
"You know, the opposing pitcher [is] making good pitches, not giving in," manager Davey Johnson said. "They are not sitting on balls. I don't attribute it to being young or inexperienced. I tip my hat to the other guy."
Carpenter missed most of the season because of an arm injury, and Desmond said Carpenter won the game with his heart. He didn't allow a run in 5 2/3 innings.
"He goes out there and competes," Desmond said. "It's about winning and losing. It's not about 'Was my curveball there?' Was my sinker there?' It was about making good pitches and competing. He did that today, and he got the W."
St. Louis would score four additional runs against Washington's bullpen. In the sixth inning, the Cards had runners on second and third with no outs against Craig Stammen when Daniel Descalso hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Molina to make it a five-run game.
An inning later, with the bases loaded, Christian Garcia walked Molina, scoring Jon Jay to make it a six-run game.
The Cards added two more in the eighth, when Holliday's two-run single off Ryan Mattheus gave the Cardinals their final runs of the day.
In the NLDS, Washington's bullpen has allowed nine runs in 12 innings.
"We are not making good pitches. The Cardinals are hitting our mistakes. We have to get that cleaned up a little bit," Stammen said. "There were times during the season I didn't make good pitches, too. Today was one of them, like some of those days back then. Hopefully, the next two days, I'll start making better pitches and get these guys out."
With their backs against the wall, Johnson is not thinking about changing his rotation and having left-hander Gio Gonzalez pitch on three days' rest. The Nationals will turn to Ross Detwiler in Game 4 (4 p.m. ET on TBS) on Thursday as they try to extend their season by evening the series at two games apiece.
"I wouldn't do that," Johnson said about Gonzalez. "We have two more ballgames. Det's capable of pitching a good game tomorrow. That's been our strength all year. These young guys have pitched great all year. We need a couple more good pitched games this series."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.