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Nats in the zone; Cardinals' lineup, not so much

WAS View Full Game Coverage HINGTON -- For the second straight day, umpire Jim Joyce was a topic of postgame conversation in both clubhouses. After a few close calls at first base in the Cardinals' Game 3 win, players and managers took note of the wider-than-usual strike zone Joyce called from behind home plate in the Nationals' 2-1 win in Game 4 on Thursday.

Indeed, Pitch F/x data showed that pitchers for both clubs received a little extra, but equal, leeway outside the strike zone, particularly on the right side of the plate. But the Nationals seemingly used it more to their advantage, especially their relievers, who struck out eight of the nine batters they retired.

"I was just trying to make my pitches and not make any mistakes over the plate. I can only remember getting one call," Washington setup man Tyler Clippard said. "But it was like that all night. ... That's just kind of the way the game goes."

Added Cardinals third baseman David Freese: "We knew after a few innings that Jim had a pretty wide zone. But I think it was pretty consistent for both sides. You work with what you have. Their pitchers have good action, especially with their fastballs, and had good sink. ... It was a little wide, but it was consistent. You can't really argue with it."

St. Louis left fielder Matt Holliday, who struck out looking twice, appeared to disagree with the strike zone after both at-bats.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said the strike zone was discussed in the dugout "like every night," but not any more so than usual.

The Nationals' staff struck out 10 batters, while the Cardinals went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. Given St. Louis' lack of timely hits after two consecutive games full of them, center fielder Jon Jay also refused to make it an excuse for the Cards' 2-1 loss.

"We just didn't capitalize on opportunities," Jay said. "That's what we've done in games we've won, and that's what we have to do [Friday]."

"As a player, you have no control of that," added right fielder Carlos Beltran. "You try to stay in your zone and wait for a pitch that you can hit hard and put in play. That's something that you have no control [over]."