ST. LOUIS – Max Scherzer was strength and fire. Anibal Sanchez was artistry and deception.
Two different styles, two absolute gems for the Washington Nationals.
Scherzer followed Sanchez's near no-hitter with a try of his own, and the stingy Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 on Saturday for a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series.
"We really want to win here," Scherzer said. "So that's what's going to happen, we're going to compete and win."
Scherzer didn't give up a hit until Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh inning with a single that left fielder Juan Soto played conservatively with a 1-0 lead. A day earlier, Sanchez held the Cardinals hitless until Jose Martinez had a pinch single with two down in the eighth.
Sanchez and Scherzer also began the 2013 ALCS with consecutive no-hit bids of at least five innings for Detroit against Boston. They are the only pitchers to accomplish the feat in postseason history.
"I'm just in the moment," Scherzer said. "I'm not trying to do anything great, I'm just trying to stick within my game."
Scherzer, a St. Louis native who played college ball for the University of Missouri, struck out 11 and walked two in seven innings.
It doesn't get any easier for St. Louis, either. Stephen Strasburg gets the ball for the wild-card Nationals when the best-of-seven series moves to Washington for Game 3 on Monday night. The Cardinals counter with ace Jack Flaherty.
"They have a pretty strong advantage right now," Cardinals righthander Adam Wainwright said.
"I've got a lot of confidence in our hitters. I think our hitters are going to do something special in Washington."
St. Louis got another solid performance from Wainwright, who struck out 11 in 7⅓ innings. But after getting only one hit in the opener, the inconsistent Cardinals lineup managed only three hits against Scherzer and the Washington bullpen.
The Nationals got a third-inning homer from Michael A. Taylor, then added two runs in the eighth when Adam Eaton slapped a two-run double down the right-field line.
St. Louis got its first run of the series in the bottom of the inning when Taylor misplayed Martinez's pinch-hit liner into an RBI double with two outs. But Dexter Fowler flied out on Sean Doolittle's next pitch.
Patrick Corbin got the first out of the ninth before Daniel Hudson earned his third save of the playoffs. The righthander was reinstated from the postseason paternity list after missing Game 1 to be with his wife, Sara, in Arizona for the birth of their third child, a girl named Millie.
"To be able to have that experience with my family and be there for the whole thing was everything I could have imagined," Hudson said. "Obviously, it is my third kid. And top three things in my life, 1A, 1B and 1C, are, was being there for the birth of all three of my daughters."