Both sides departed St. Louis feeling as if they'd accomplished something important. The Nats survived Game 1, guaranteeing the split they'd sought when they alighted in Missouri, while the Cards rebounded with a Game 2 offensive eruption they hope will catapult them to two more wins and a role in the NL Championship Series.
"We play hard, the right way," Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth said, speaking with the authority of a former World Series champion in Philadelphia. "We battle. We're tough. We're in good shape, where we need to be. We had to win one game here, and we did.
"You work all season for home-field advantage. The series is tied, and we've got a chance to go back home and play in front of our fans. That's what it's all about. We did our job here."
Claiming a 12-4 decision, the Cardinals unleashed some offensive fury in Game 2 following the frustration of going 0-for-8 and leaving 10 runners stranded in Game 1.
Nats manager Davey Johnson will ask veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson to put the brakes on the Cards in Game 3 on Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET on MLB Network. Taking the ball for St. Louis manager Mike Matheny is Chris Carpenter, who is 9-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 15 postseason starts and was 4-0 in six outings last year en route to the improbable championship.
Jackson, part of the Cardinals' title troupe last season, made a start in each postseason series and was 1-1. That's his career postseason record with a 4.91 ERA in seven games, four as a starter.
"Jackson's a very experienced pitcher," Johnson said. "He's certainly up to it. But, you know, you have to pitch. You can't go out there and just throw against this ballclub. This is a good fastball-hitting club. You have to make some good pitches."
The Cardinals rocked Jordan Zimmermann and the Nationals' bullpen in Game 2, with Carlos Beltran's two home runs -- giving him 13 in 25 postseason games -- leading the way. Allen Craig homered, doubled and singled, and Daniel Descalso homered and singled in the 13-hit attack.
"I hope I never see this offense again," Johnson said, grinning, in reference to the Cards.
Matheny has other ideas, naturally. He'd love to see 12 runs or so from his outfit every day.
"We know this offense has the potential to do this," Matheny said. "We have great respect for their offense, as well. We know they're explosive. We saw a couple of balls hit out of the park from them as well."
Beltran -- a free-agent acquisition who outhomered Cardinals legend Albert Pujols this season, with Pujols now the Angels' first baseman -- is driven by the pursuit of what would be his first World Series title in a distinguished career.
"This was something I was looking for when I came here, for the chance to win a championship," Beltran said. "[The Cardinals] were champions last year and have a chance to repeat that. I want to be part of it, do something positive every day to help the team win.
"There's no doubt [the Nationals have] a good pitching ballclub. They're a good offensive club, too. This is a good series. They're a bunch of younger guys, and we have guys who have been in this position many years. It's all about playing good baseball."
From the Nats' standpoint, something closer to Game 1 than Game 2 would be the more appealing recipe for Game 3.
"You hate to get blown out," said Werth, who has 13 postseason homers in 46 games, "but a game when you get walked-off probably hurts you more. No big deal. A loss is a loss. We'll head home and feel good about it. We're going to head to our park, where we play them tough."
The Nationals took three of four from the Cardinals at home in late August and early September. St. Louis then took two of three at home from Washington.
Fans in the Beltway are revved for their first exposure to postseason baseball -- unless they were born before 1933, when the most recent game of this magnitude was played in the nation's capital.