As recently as two months ago, neither Chris Carpenter nor Pete Kozma factored into the Cardinals' postseason plans. Carpenter had just begun exercising following a mid-July surgery that had been termed season-ending. Kozma was pedaling along in Triple-A, where the Cards appeared to be grooming him as a potential utility player for future seasons.

Persistence paved the way for Carpenter's unexpected return. Injury opened the door for Kozma.

And on Wednesday, the individual performances by each helped spoil playoff baseball's long-awaited homecoming to the nation's capital, leading the Cardinals to an 8-0 win over the Nationals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series. With the victory, which came in front of a sellout crowd at Nationals Park, St. Louis sits one win away from claiming the best-of-five series and moving onto the NL Championship Series.

Having pitched only 17 regular-season innings, Carpenter nevertheless took the mound in the October setting that typically yields his best. Wednesday's outing wasn't pristine, yet plenty sufficient to send the right-hander to a franchise-best 10th postseason win.