Every playoff game is tense but it gets amped up to a whole nother level once your opponent is just a couple games from winning. It's not elimination game tense, but whereas in games 1 & 2 (thanks to the win in game 1) you might still have an ability to let the game unfold and see where it takes you, there is precious little of that going forward. You get maybe a run through the lineup before every at bat feels like it's the most important one in the world. Every out made by your team is by a player who doesn't care. Every run scored by their team is a pitcher who's terrible and a manager who's asleep at the wheel. It's intense and terrible and great all at the same time.
Of course there isn't an overwhelming reason for it to be. If the Nats lose game 3 they still only need to win back to back games at home to win the series. I'm not going to look but I imagine they've done that many many times this year. They wouldn't be favored to do so, but the odds probably wouldn't be all that low. Fans can feel that palpable odds shift, though. From up 2-1 where you'd have to think they'd be favored to win the series 80-85% of the time, to down 1-2 where they'd be around 33% underdogs. From "Ok we've got this" to "We're out".
Zimmermann's game was not a good omen for the rest of the playoffs, but for the series it matters little more than the loss. He won't pitch the rest of the series now. So the question of was it the Cardinals, or was it him pitching poorly like he's done a lot more coming down the stretch than he had all year is moot right now. I'm more concerned with the fact the Cardinals hit up the bullpen. Part of the Nats strength is feeling they could go 4-5 guys deep in the pen and still get you out. Yersterday, Stammen was hit, Gonzalez was hit, and Burnett was hit. I suppose you could go Mattheus, Garcia, Clippard, and Storen, but out of those are you really confident about anyone but Drew right now? Let's just hope Jackson goes deep and the Nats get a big lead so we don't have to worry about such things.
Offensively the Nats did get some big hits, but they still aren't hitting like you'd want them to. Bryce is espeically frustrating. He's going to get a lot of at bats at the top of that lineup, but he's not hitting, he's not walking, and he's providing a lot of empty strikeouts. I'm never in favor of line-up tinkering this late in the game so you just hope a return home will pick him back up. The team has also only managed two walks off the Cards pen (both by Lynn).
It's not the end of the world yet. You want to split the away games. The Nats did that. They didn't take advantage of an opportunity to put the series awaym but they certainly did not blow it in any shape or form. In all honesty, the Nats are where they probably expected, if not wanted, to be. Focus on that for now.