Nationals brace for latest test in St. Louis

Nationals brace for latest test in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Washington entered Friday night's game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium as baseball's hottest team, winning 11 of its last 13.

The Nationals made a statement by taking three or four against San Francisco, the team with the best record in baseball. And now another statement could be made against the Cardinals, who have dominated the Nationals since coming back to win Game 5 of the 2012 National League Division Series.

St. Louis won all six meetings in 2013 and the clubs split a four-game series earlier this season at Washington.

"It's such a good team, and they're always playing good ball," Washington second baseman Danny Espinosa said. "So if we come in and win the series, that would obviously show that we're playing real good ball right now. At the same time, we've got to take it game by game. Just one game at a time. Let's win tonight and see what we can do the following days."

Washington manager Matt Williams doesn't believe in worrying about the past.

"Every game's different," Williams said. "One day could be a struggle, the next day everything could go right for you. So it's human nature to think about those things, but I think you have to put it out of your mind as much as you can."

Williams pointed out that the Cardinals have had success against a lot of teams in recent years. St. Louis won the World Series in 2011, went to the NL Championship Series in '12 and lost in the World Series in '13.

"I can tell you this, that team over there, they do a really nice job with guys in scoring position," Williams said. "They create those opportunities and they come through. They've got good, professional hitters, they play good defense and they pitch solidly. That's probably a recipe for a lot of teams not playing well against them. We've seen that over the last couple of years and how they played. That's all in the past though. We have to concentrate on tonight."

It's a mindset echoed by the Nationals players.

"We had a tough loss against them a couple of years ago obviously," Espinosa said. "It's definitely something you want to come in and win and get back and show we can beat them. It won't be by any means an easy win day to day, but if we stay within ourselves and do what we're capable of doing, I think we can win the series."

Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.