ST. LOUIS — It turns out Washington’s Big Three is a Big Four.
Don’t forget about Aníbal Sánchez.
The right-hander carried a no-hit bid into the eighth inning, Howie Kendrick had two more big swings and the Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-0 on Friday night in the NL Championship Series opener.
Sánchez had allowed just three runners when he took the mound for the eighth. First baseman Ryan Zimmerman robbed Tommy Edman with an outstanding diving grab at full stretch for the first out, but pinch-hitter José Martínez cleanly singled to center with two down for the Cardinals’ first hit.
Sean Doolittle relieved and got four straight outs to finish the one-hitter for his first postseason save in two years.
Sánchez and Doolittle made life easy on manager Dave Martinez on the chilly night after the Nationals placed closer Daniel Hudson on the paternity list before the franchise’s first appearance in the NLCS since the Montreal Expos moved to Washington ahead of the 2005 season.
“I don’t claim to be superstitious, but when you got a no-hitter — I was freezing my butt off and didn’t want to put a jacket on,” Martinez said. “I stayed with this, just this sweat shirt, the whole game.”
Game 2 is back at Busch Stadium on Saturday. Washington ace Max Scherzer starts in his hometown, and Adam Wainwright gets the ball for St. Louis. Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin will follow when the series moves to Nationals Park.
“People were talking about the big three,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said, “but we got a guy tonight that we got to contend with and not overlook him.”
St. Louis wasted a solid performance by Miles Mikolas, who pitched six innings of one-run ball in his second career playoff start.
Washington scored each of its runs with two outs.