WASHINGTON -- If you remove the national spotlight, the looming threat of a season-ending elimination game and the bunting all around their home field, all the Nationals have to do this week against the Cardinals is something they've done with great success all season: win a three-game home series.
After splitting the first two games of the National League Division Series in St. Louis, Washington needs to win two more games to advance to the NL Championship Series. The Nationals finished the regular season 50-31 at home -- tied with five other teams for the second best mark in the Majors -- and won 10 of their 15 three-game series at Nationals Park.
Or, as first baseman Adam LaRoche put it, "We'll start a race to two here. Nice to be able to do it at home.
"We know what it's going to take. I think we're going to try to keep it to one game at a time and try not to look too far ahead. We've got a big one [Wednesday]. If you don't get it done, you're in a bad spot. So we know how important that is. It'd be nice to get that one and move on."
Washington was swept at home only once this season (June 15-17 against the Yankees), and won three out of four against St. Louis earlier this year at Nationals Park. Manager Davey Johnson described his club as having played "exceptionally" well on its home field, and the rest of the Nationals feel equally confident in their ability to win a home series the same way they did from April through October.
"Anytime we're at home, I think we play good ball. This is where we want to play," left fielder Michael Morse said. "We did what we wanted to do. We wanted to leave St. Louis with one game."