First, the bad news — Edwin Jackson (9-11), in his return to St. Louis, did more to help his former team than the Nationals. Jackson threw his worst game of the season and the worst outing of any Nationals starter all season, allowing 9 runs, 8 earned, in 1 1/3 innings as the St. Louis Cardinals blasted Washington, 12 to 2. Jackson’s mess of a game increased his ERA to 4.13.
Now, the good news. In Atlanta, on Chipper Jones Night, the lowly New York Mets defeated the Atlanta Braves, 3-1. The Braves’ loss reduces the magic number for the Nationals to clinch the National League East Division to two. (And one more piece of minor good news, the Miami Marlins, on a walk-off single by Carlos Lee, defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, 2-1, thus eliminating the Phillies from playoff contention).
The Cardinals’ victory eliminated the Arizona Diamondbacks from the playoff race. The Cards magic number to clinch the first-ever second wildcard berth is, at most, three over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
As for the Nats’ performance in St. Louis, little good can be said as the game was, by far, the club’s most wretched performance of the season. The Cardinals have one of baseball’s best offenses and they certainly displayed that today, banging out 12 hits, including home runs from Yadier Molina (22nd) and Shane Robinson (3rd).
The game unraveled after the Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning against St. Louis starter and winner Adam Wainwright (14-13). Adam LaRoche singled in Uncle Bryce Harper for his 99th RBI. Harper’s run was his 95th of the season, bringing him within five of his goal to score 100.
In the home half of the first, the Cardinals erupted for five runs on four singles, two walks and yet another error by Ryan Zimmerman, his 19th of the season, far too many for someone with Gold Glove aspirations. His skittish defense could cost the Nationals dearly in the playoffs.
St. Louis added four more runs in the second inning and the game was over except the shouting. As Charlie Slowes commented on the Nationals radio broadcast, the best moment of the night for Nats’ fans came courtesy of Lucas Duda‘s three-run homer off of Tim Hudson in the Mets’ half of the 7th inning in Atlanta.
Champ of the Game: The St. Louis offense. The Cardinals poured 12 runs across the plate on 12 hits. First baseman Allen Craig went 4-4 with two runs and two RBI.
For the Nationals, Harper continued his hot hitting, going 2-3 before being lifted from the game.
Chump of the Game: Jackson. When he is bad, he has difficulty escaping jams and gives up runs in droves. Tonight, he was bad, but his defense also betrayed him. Nats fans can only hope he will have no such meltdowns in the playoffs.
Unsung Hero: Jonathan Niese, Manny Acosta, Justin Hampson, and Bobby Parnell, who combined to hold the red-hot Braves to one run on four hits, allowing the Mets to help the Nats take one more step toward a division crown. Nats’ fans are doubtless singing “I Love New York” tonight.
Next Game: Tomorrow, Saturday, September 29th, 7:15 p.m. at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Jordan Zimmermann (12-8, 2.90) faces Cardinals’ ace Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.77). Obviously, things don’t get any easier for the Nationals.