By Steve Ginsburg
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The St. Louis Cardinals moved to the cusp of National League Championship Series by routing the Washington Nationals 8-0 on Wednesday, spoiling the first home postseason game in the nation's capital since 1933.
St. Louis leads the best-of-five National League Division Series 2-1 and can advance to the next round with a victory on Thursday at Nationals Park.
The Cardinals wasted little time in dampening the spirit of the home crowd by scoring a run in the first on an Allen Craig double, while adding three more in the second on a Pete Kozma homer into the left-field stands.
Kozma said he would have been happy with a sacrifice fly.
"We had a runner on third, less than two outs, so I was just looking for first pitch in the zone, put it out in the outfield," he said.
A sacrifice fly by Daniel Descalso in the sixth hiked the Cardinals' advantage to 5-0, before Yadier Molina's bases-loaded walk an inning later had the record Nationals Park crowd of 45,017 searching for the exits.
Chris Carpenter scattered seven hits over 5-2/3 innings to get the win, while Edwin Jackson, who was with the Cardinals during their World Series title a year ago, suffered the loss.
The 37-year-old Carpenter had a nerve issue with his shoulder and arm and missed virtually the entire year, returning for only three starts at the end of the season.
"I challenge myself in many ways, and this was another challenge mentally to go out and make pitches and do the things that you're supposed to do to be successful," he said.
"No matter if I've got one start, no starts, or 35 starts, bottom line is, you go out there on the mound and make pitches and eliminate all of the distractions, and I was able to do that for the most part today."
Nationals manager Davey Johnson refused to believe his club was ready to throw in the towel, saying there are "a couple more battles we need to win."
"We are not out of this by a long shot," he said. "Keep us in the ballgame tomorrow, get a few key hits, we're right back in it. Shoot, I've had my back to worse walls than this."
With the Cardinals leading 6-0 and the once-boisterous crowd looking ahead to Thursday, Matt Holliday banged a single to left, scoring Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran.
St. Louis first-year manager Mike Matheny told his club not to be rattled by the raucous crowd. It did not matter since the Cardinals' early scoring took them right out of it.
"There's a buzz all over this city," he said. "We just go out and play our game and try not to let that get in the way, whether there's a lot of life or no life at all.
"The guys just have to put their head down and play their game."
The last playoff game played in Washington was 79 years ago when the Senators lost the World Series to the New York Giants in five games.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)