The Nationals played a wild and wooly game against the Cardinals Saturday afternoon at Nats Park. The Nationals had several leads in the game but could not hold them as the Cardinals nipped the Nationals by scoring the go ahead run in the top of the ninth inning to hand the Nationals the loss.
Starting pitchers Jordan Zimmerman and Kyle Lohse squared off in what promised to be a good pitching matchup. Both offenses scored early and often off the starters, neither of whom had a particularly good outing. Zimmerman labored from the beginning, taking over twenty pitches to get through the first inning. It would be his only scoreless inning in three and two-thirds innings of work.
The Nationals scored four runs in the bottom of the first thanks to two errors by the Cardinals. After Jayson Werth lined out, Bryce Harper turned a single into a double thanks to aggressive base running. Ryan Zimmerman ground out, but Adam LaRoche slapped an RBI single to get Harper home. Michael Morse singled and Ian Desmond then sent a ball to deep left center near the Cardinals bullpen. Matt Holliday missed the catch, and both LaRoche and Morse scored. Desmond ended up on second and Holliday was charged with an error. Danny Espinosa hit a routine ground ball to Daniel Descalso playing shortstop for the Cardinals, who muffed the play, allowing Espinosa to get to first safely. Kurt Suzuki cashed in with an RBI single, and the Nationals had jumped out to the early lead.
Jordan gave two of those runs back in the second inning, giving up a single to Yadier Molina and a home run to David Freese. The Nationals got those two runs back in the bottom of the second on a Ryan Zimmerman single and a home run by Adam LaRoche. The Cardinals scored two more runs in the top of the third on a single by John Jay and a home run by Matt Holliday.
At the beginning of the fourth inning the score was 6-4 in favor of the Nationals, but the Cardinals turned that around in the top of the fourth. David Freese hit a lead off double. After Skip Schumaker flew out, Descalso was hit by a pitch, which put runners on first and second. Lohse attempted to bunt the runners over, but popped the ball up to Ryan Zimmerman for the second out. Jordan hit Jay to load the bases, gave up a bases clearing double to Matt Carpenter, and then walked Matt Holliday. Davey Johnson finally came out to get Jordan, who had thrown ninety-three pitches. Craig Stammen came in to relieve Zimmerman. Allen Craig smacked a single that scored Carpenter. Stammen then got Molina to ground out. Jordan Zimmerman was charged with eight runs in his outing, clearly his worst of the year.
Stammen pitched scoreless fifth and sixth innings. Kyle Lohse took a two run lead into the bottom of the sixth, when the Nats offense struck again. Danny Espinosa belted a solo home run to cut the deficit to one run. Suzuki popped out on a bunt attempt and pinch hitter Roger Bernadina flew out. Werth doubled and the Cardinals went to their bullpen, bringing in Marc Rzepczynski, who promptly walked Harper. Fernando Salas then came in to pitch to Ryan Zimmerman. He singled to right field. Werth scored easily. Ryan tried to turn the single into a double and was hung up between first and second. Right fielder Craig threw the ball home when he realized Harper was trying to score instead of throwing to second to get the out on Ryan. Harper was safe and Zimmerman got to second. The Nationals were now ahead 9-8. LaRoche ground out to end the inning.
Ryan Mattheus threw a scoreless seventh, as did Edward Mujica for the Cardinals. Sean Burnett came in to pitch the eighth and struggled today just like he did in his last outing against the Marlins. Burnett walked pinch hitter Shane Robinson, who went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Descalso. Robinson scored on a pinch hit single by Carlos Beltran, which tied the game. Jay then singled. Carpenter ground out, but advanced the runners to second and third with Holliday coming to the plate. Drew Storen was called upon to get Holliday out, and he did, getting Holliday to strike out. The Nats could not score in the bottom of the eighth, leaving the score tied 9-9.
Storen came out to pitch the ninth inning. Craig singled. Molina flew out to left. With Freese batting, Craig stole second and then scored on Freese’s single. Freese then stole second, but Pete Kozma ground out and Descalso flew out. The Cardinals were ahead 10-9. The Nats could not get a base runner against the Cardinals closer Jason Motte, who pitched a one-two-three inning for the save. Drew Storen took the loss, and Mitchell Boggs, who handled the bottom of the eighth for the Cards, vultured the win.
Champ of the Game: For the Nationals, it was Bryce Harper. He went 2-4, drew a walk, and scored two runs with heads up base running, stretching a single into a double in the first inning and then scoring the go ahead run in the sixth in a bone jarring collision at the plate play.
David Freese went 3-5, scored two runs and had three RBIs. He was the champ of the game for the Cards.
Chump of the Game: For the Nationals, it wasn’t Jordan Zimmerman. It’s Davey Johnson. It was apparent from the first inning that for whatever reason, Zimmerman didn’t have it today.
By the time he had reached the fourth inning it was clear from the number of pitches he had already thrown that he was going to need a quick inning to get through five. As the fourth inning dragged on and Zimmerman had hit two batters, it was clear Zimmerman was gassed and had lost his control. Once your pitcher has loaded the bases by hitting two batters, it’s time for the hook. Instead, Zimmerman faced two more batters giving up a bases clearing double and walking the next batter and putting the Nationals behind in a game where the offense had scored six runs to that point.
Skip Schumaker went 0-3 for the Cardinals with two strikeouts. He was the only starter that didn’t contribute to some way to the Cardinals offensive explosion.