The importance of 1-0, winning on the road; links

Adam Berry here in St. Louis, pinch-hitting for Bill Ladson. For more news and notes and in-game updates, check out Nationals.com and follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

The Nationals won their first postseason game Sunday at Busch Stadium, beating the Cardinals, 3-2, thanks to some pinch-hitting heroics from Tyler Moore, a spectacular effort by their bullpen and a wild, but not totally disastrous, start from Gio Gonzalez.

“We learned a lot about ourselves. It doesn’t have to be perfect for us to get it done,” closer Drew Storen said afterward. “If we’re going to be playing in the World Series, that’s the only way we’re going to get there.”

More immediately, they’re two wins away from hosting the NLCS against the Reds or the Giants (and given the way Cincinnati thumped San Francisco last night to go up 2-0, it’d be stunning if it wasn’t the Reds), and they’ll have as many as four more chances to get those two wins, three of them coming at Nationals Park if the series goes a full five games.

Obviously winning Game 1 matters in any series. You set the tone, establish early momentum and all that cliche stuff. It’s especially important in a five-game series. Consider these numbers, updated by MLB.com’s Zack Meisel:
-Teams with a 1-0 lead in the NLDS have gone 30-4 in the series.
-Teams with a 2-0 lead in the NLDS are undefeated, going 21-0 to this point. (See what I meant about the Reds?) Overall, between both leagues, clubs that won the first two games of a five-game series have gone 38-4.
-Seventeen of 19 clubs to take a 2-1 lead in the NLDS have won the series.

“The first one’s huge, especially in this first round. You go up to seven games, it’s a little different,” Adam LaRoche said last night. “But a short round like this, you want to get the first one.”

Jayson Werth called on his own experience about the importance of surviving a tough first game on the road, recalling one in Milwaukee in the 2008 NLDS — it was Game 3, the first one in Miller Park and the only one the Phillies lost that series. He remembered that the roof was closed and the crowd was banging ThunderStix the whole time — “It was so loud, it was like 10 times louder than any game we had played,” he said — and Philadelphia lost, 4-1.

“And mentally, we were fried. It was a lot to overcome. I always remember that game,” Werth said. “We got beat and we came back and won the next night, but that first game was tough to swallow. I felt like we got into that situation a little bit in the first inning [Sunday]. We grinded through it and we ended up getting the win. Big win for us today, no doubt.”

If you want to read more about Game 1, here are some links from the MLB.com staff here in St. Louis:

-The game story focuses on Tyler Moore’s game-winning, pinch-hit single in the eighth, which made everything all right after so much seemed to be going wrong early on.
-Anthony DiComo’s story on the good, the bad and the ugly of Gio Gonzalez and his first postseason start.
-DiComo also recaps Ryan Mattheus’ short, but incredibly important, outing in this piece on the Nationals’ bullpen.
-On the topic of Mattheus, and Moore, columnist Tracy Ringolsby delves into their stories and their contributions in Game 1.
-The Cardinals game story from Jennifer Langosch reads a lot like the Nationals’ story probably would have had Tyler Moore not come through: full of missed opportunities and a must-win Game 2.
-Speaking of Moore, Paul Hagen runs through Mike Matheny’s options in the most crucial moment of the game.
-And if you can’t get enough of the shadows at Busch Stadium, Jennifer Langosch got reactions from both sides. Something to look forward to: They’ll probably be even worse today.
-The Did You Know? collection of fun facts and notes from Game 1, compiled by associates Mike Fiammetta and Jake Kaplan.
-And, looking ahead to this afternoon’s game, another piece by Anthony DiComo on why the always stoic Jordan Zimmermann says he won’t be affected by the playoff excitement.

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