Zimmermann looks to possibly lead the Nationals to their first division title while Lohse tries to help the Cardinals move closer to clinching the NL's second wild-card spot Saturday night at Busch Stadium.
Although Washington (95-62) was on the wrong end of a 12-2 drubbing in Friday's opener, the franchise's magic number for winning the East was reduced to two when Atlanta lost to the New York Mets . The Nationals lead the Braves by four games with five to play and could wrap up the division Saturday.
"The Braves finally lost a game this month, so I guess we can take that as a positive," Adam LaRoche said.
The Cardinals (85-72), winners of nine of 11, are also on the cusp of a clincher, with a magic number of three over Los Angeles to get back to the playoffs for a chance to defend their World Series title."I think our team's coming together nicely," said Adam Wainwright , Friday's winning pitcher. "We've been playing good ball for the last few weeks and we're going to be a very dangerous team if we get in there. When we get in there."Hopefully it happens sooner rather than later."
Those two have played a big role in St. Louis' surge, with Craig batting .395 with nine RBIs in his last nine games, and Molina hitting .333 with three homers and eight RBIs in his last nine.
With Friday's outcome in little doubt, both managers began taking out their starters for rest.
St. Louis' Matt Holliday was removed in the sixth inning, but that came after he was hit by a pitch on the left elbow. The team said Holliday had a contusion and was day to day.
Cardinals third baseman David Freese missed his fourth straight start with a sprained right ankle, and it's unclear if he'll be ready to return Saturday.
Runs could be at a premium as the series continues with Lohse (16-3, 2.77 ERA), owner of the NL's third-best ERA, going up against Zimmermann (12-8, 2.90), who has the league's seventh-best ERA.
A pitchers' duel never materialized the last time they opposed one another, however.
Lohse gave up a season-high eight runs - five earned - and nine hits over 5 2-3 innings Sept. 1 in the nation's capital, while Zimmermann was shelled for a career-worst eight runs and eight hits in a season-low 3 2-3. Holliday and Freese each homered off Zimmermann, while LaRoche and Danny Espinosa homered off Lohse in a game the Cardinals rallied to win 10-9.
In four starts since, Zimmermann is 3-0 with a 2.19 ERA, yielding two runs or fewer in each.
Lohse, meanwhile, is 2-1 with a 2.49 ERA in his past four. Against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, he allowed three runs and five hits in six innings of a 6-3 victory, establishing a career high for wins.
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA in three home starts against Washington since arriving in St. Louis in 2008.
Zimmermann hasn't fared well at all against the Cardinals, going 0-2 with a 10.71 ERA in four career outings.
|September 12, 2012||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Torn cuff and bone bruise in left wrist|
|September 03, 2012||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right thumb|
|September 02, 2012||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Sore hamstring|
|August 24, 2012||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Strained right hamstring|
|August 24, 2012||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hand contusion|
|August 13, 2012||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Sore right ankle|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|September 28, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Sprained right ankle|
|September 28, 2012||Matt Holliday||Day-to-Day||Left game - left elbow contusion|
|September 23, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Lower back spasms|
|September 09, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Swollen left ankle|
|September 09, 2012||Matt Carpenter||Day-to-Day||Cut hand|
|September 09, 2012||Jake Westbrook||Day-to-Day||Strained right oblique|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- The Washington Nationals opened with a blast good enough for two trips around the bases. Another big shot, and they can taste the NL East title.
Michael Morse circled the bases for a grand slam after taking an imaginary swing and Kurt Suzuki snapped a 10th-inning tie with a two-run double in a 6-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night that shaved the Nationals' magic number to one for taking the division.
"We showed a lot and we showed what good teams do, and that's bounce back and battle through adversity," said closer Drew Storen , who blew his first save in four chances in the ninth. "So it's ours for the taking tomorrow.
"We're going to be ready, lace it up and let's get it done."
The Nationals have put on hold a champagne celebration until they win the division, and were forced to wait at least another day when second-place Atlanta beat the Mets 2-0.
Washington had already assured the nation's capital of its first postseason appearance since 1933. The Nationals can win their first division title on Sunday when a St. Louis native, lefty Ross Detwiler , starts against Cardinals 17-game winner Lance Lynn .
"These games are tough," Suzuki said. "These games definitely get you ready. Those guys are scrappy, they're a good team."
St. Louis' magic number for clinching the second NL wild-card spot remained at three, with a two-game lead over the Dodgers and four games to go. Starter Kyle Lohse took a large share of the blame after surrendering the Morse grand slam.
"The main thing I can do is locate and I didn't do a good job of locating that inning," Lohse said. "I put us in a pretty good hole and the guys did a good job of battling back to give us a shot to win it."
The Nationals opened the game with a drive, and a bit of comedy.
Bryce Harper singled, Ryan Zimmerman doubled and Adam LaRoche drew a full-count walk to load the bases in the first inning. Lohse said what followed would have doubled him over if he'd been watching.
Morse hit a line drive on the first pitch that cleared the right-field wall into a grassy section, then bounced off a video board and back onto the field. First base umpire Chris Guccione didn't see it, however, and play continued. Right fielder Carlos Beltran made a relay to second baseman Skip Schumaker , who ran down Morse as he retreated toward first.
The umpires looked at video replays and confirmed it was indeed a home run. Then they ordered all runners to retrace their steps and put Morse back at the plate, where he mimicked his swing minus a bat and then made his trot.
Morse got guidance from the dugout. From Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina , too.
"I look back over the dugout at everybody telling me to swing and I'm like, `No I'm not going to swing.' And Yaddy was like `Swing," you know, so I'm like, all right.
"So I swung. It felt like spring training or something. It felt like a drill."
Morse has four career slams and two this season. He is 6 for 11 with 14 RBIs with the bases loaded this year.
"That was weird," Lohse said. "I would probably have started laughing if I saw it, what Morse did afterwards. I wasn't watching. I knew it was a homer, so I was just trying to re-start."
Rookie Pete Kozma had three hits and two RBIs for St. Louis. He scored on Jon Jay 's sacrifice fly off Storen (3-1) in the ninth to tie it.
"I'm having a blast," Kozma said. "That was a tough one to swallow, but still we're having fun."
The Nationals got a pair of walks and a passed ball to set up the go-ahead hit, a double off the wall in left-center by Suzuki, who's batting .385 with runners in scoring position since coming in a trade from Oakland on Aug. 3.
LaRoche walked for second time to open the 10th against rookie Sam Freeman (0-2) and also had a pair of hits.
Craig Stammen allowed a hit but also got a double-play ball in the 10th for his first save in two chances.
Just like a night earlier when the Nationals' Edwin Jackson trailed 5-1 after an inning, Lohse got into deep trouble early.
Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann entered 0-2 with a 10.71 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals, allowing at least five runs each time. He retired eight of nine to open the game and before the seventh had allowed only one runner into scoring position.
The Cardinals got three straight one-out hits to chase Zimmermann in the seventh, singles by Beltran and Schumaker ahead of a two-run double by Kozma, the eighth-place hitter. Jay added an RBI single off Sean Burnett to cut the deficit to one.
NOTES: Cardinals 3B David Freese missed his fifth straight start with a sprained right ankle but could play Sunday. Matt Carpenter subbed for him again Saturday. Freese drew a five-pitch walk as a pinch hitter in the seventh. ... Beltran, who entered in a 3-for-21 slump, batted sixth for the second straight night and fourth time overall this season. He's been the primary cleanup man and has 92 RBIs, but just 27 since the All-Star break.