Magic number now ONE!
Following a disappointing loss Friday night, the Washington Nationals (96-62) were able to outlast the St. Louis Cardinals (85-73) in extras, 6-4, behind strong starting pitching and a few deep balls by power hitters Michael Morse and Kurt Suzuki on Saturday. Though he would give up the tying run in the 9th, Drew Storen (W, 3-1) gets the win in tonight’s contest. Unfortunately, the Nats will have to wait another day to celebrate a division win after the Mets failed to beat the Braves this evening.
He would earn a no-decision, but except for a tough 1st inning, Cardinals’ starter Kyle Lohse was sharp. The Nats would get on the board early after Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam LaRoche loaded the bases for none other than “The Beast” aka Morse in the opening frame. Though there was a bit of confusion on the play, Morse would hit the top of the wall for his second grand slam of the year and tack a four-spot on the board for the away team! 4-0 Nats through one. Despite Washington’s big inning, Lohse would completely settle down and allow just five more hits and no runs to complete his six inning, eight hit, and nine strikeout outing.
Until his final inning, Jordan Zimmermann played extremely well for the Nationals. The Cardinals failed to score until the 7th, when Carlos Beltran and Skip Schumaker would each single to put two runners quickly aboard for the home team. Because manager Davey Johnson decided to leave Zimmermann in the game despite a 100+ pitch count, the young righty would struggle to keep his control following the two hits. Next batter Pete Kozma then successfully drove in both runners on a 2-RBI double down the left field line to cut the Nationals’ lead to 4-2. After a walk to the following batter, David Freese, that would be it for Zimmermann, who nonetheless finished his 32nd start commendably: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, and 5 K’s. The Cards would tack on one more in the 7th after reliever Sean Burnett gave up an RBI single to leadoff man John Jay.
After a successful 8th inning appearance by Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen would come in for the 9th, up by one run. However, he wasn’t able to close the deal after giving up a singles to Kazma and pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso and finally an RBI sacrifice fly to Jay. Extra innings, here we come!
Fortunately, Nationals fans would not have to wait long for another lead after a LaRoche walk, Danny Espinosa walk, and passed ball by Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina would put runners on second and third for Kurt Suzuki. It’d take just four pitches for the semi-recent acquisition to smack a ball to the left-center gap and drive in both runners for Washington! 6-4 game, and that would be it following an easy bottom 10th behind Craig Stammen.
The Nats officially control their own destiny and could clinch the division tomorrow afternoon in St. Louis!
Champ of the Game: For the Nats, it’s got to be Suzuki. The young stud continues to be clutch for his new team both at and behind the plate, and tonight was no exception. He went 2-5 with the two go-ahead runs in the 10th.
A single champ is tough to call here for the Cardinals, as both Jay and Kozma kept St. Louis in the game throughout the night. Jay went 2-4, Kozma 3-4 with a combined four RBIs and two runs scored.
Chump of the Game: Easy award tonight for Washington as Ian Desmond was a complete no-show at the plate despite making a couple key plays at short. Desi went 0-5 with a pair of strikeouts.
For the Cardinals, rookie reliever Sam Freeman hit the strike zone just once on three pitches and would put LaRoche in scoring position as the Nats eventually took home the victory in the extra frame.