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Garcia on his preparation for start

ST. LOUIS -- When it was posed to Ian Desmond that the Nationals in effect had broken serve against the Cardinals in seizing Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Sunday at Busch Stadium, the acrobatic shortstop shot a quick backhand the other way.

"I wouldn't say we have the upper hand," Desmond said. "That team's come from behind before. They battled back all last year. I don't think you ever have the upper hand against a team like the Cardinals.

"Obviously, it's nice to win this one, but it's only one game. We have to play the way we have all year. You play as hard as you can all the time so when the pressure comes, you can't turn it up any more than you already have.

"We've been grinding through injuries, one-run games, seven-run come-from-behind games. We've seen it all. So has our manager. Davey [Johnson] has seen it all, and he's prepared us well."

Desmond, who had three hits in his first postseason game, will face Cardinals southpaw Jaime Garcia in Game 2 at Busch Stadium on Monday at 4:30 p.m. ET on TBS. The Nats have right-hander Jordan Zimmermann lined up to confront the Cards, who were held to three hits in the opener but drew enough walks (Gio Gonzalez issued seven) to go 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and leave 10 men stranded.

"The bottom line," Garcia said, "is to just go out there and give it my best shot and try to keep us in the game."

One thing the Cardinals certainly don't want to hear is that the team that takes Game 1 is 30-4 in NLDS play coming into this postseason. More reassuring would be the 18-16 record Game 1 winners have recorded in the American League Division Series.

"We don't have the attitude, 'Oh, man, I hope I don't mess up, our back's against the wall,'" St. Louis closer Jason Motte said. "We just go out and do what we can to win."

Adam Wainwright, who struck out 10 Nationals in Game 1 in his return to postseason play after missing the 2011 ride recovering from Tommy John surgery, was leading cheers when those Redbirds repeatedly rebounded from adversity.

"We came from behind in the postseason last year in two series," Wainwright said. "We were down 4-0 in Game 2 in Philly and beat Cliff Lee. These guys do not hang their heads. We lost a good ballgame, 3-2, and we'll show up [Monday]."

The Cardinals would love to buck those NLDS odds and repeat their 2011 formula. After falling, 11-6, to the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS, they rebounded from a four-run deficit after two innings to prevail, 5-4, and go on to take the series. It was more of the same in the NL Championship Series. After the Brewers took Game 1, 9-6, the Cards stormed back to claim a 12-3 Game 2 decision, once again turning the series their way.

The World Series began and ended with Cardinals victories.

The Nats won 98 regular-season games -- 10 more than the Wild Card Cards -- with superior pitching, defense and timely hitting. It's a formula they plan to carry into Game 2.

"Very rarely in the playoffs do you see blowouts," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "All the games are going to be tight games. It's a matter of whoever executes.

"We've had a lot of games like [Game 1]. I think it's why we're where we're at. We stay calm. The fact we put ourselves in position to stay in the game is kind of what made this win so special."

Much was made coming into this series of the Cardinals' vast postseason experience in relation to the young Nationals. Washington appeared intent on taking that out of the conversation in the opener, playing with poise and confidence.

"It's baseball," Desmond said. "It's about controlling your heartbeat. It's a big moment. We've got some clutch players here. It doesn't matter if you have 15 years or one year. We're all equal."

The Cards, to keep a heartbeat, understand their challenge and how vital Game 2 is. No team in NLDS history, taking in 21 series, has come back to prevail after losing the first two.

In the AL, four teams in 21 series have rallied to celebrate after falling down two games to none.

Arithmetic is interesting, but every game and every series are distinctly new entities.

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