September 30, 2012; St. Louis, MO. USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Ross Detwiler (48) receives a new ball after giving up two run home run to St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran (not pictured) during the second inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Game 159: Cardinals 10, Nationals 4

Put the champagne on ice, and send it back to D.C. We don’t need it today.

Ross Detwiler lasted only 2.1 innings, allowing seven runs (only three earned), as the Nationals (96-63) fell flat in their first chance to clinch the NL East title, losing 10-4 to the Cardinals.

The Nats entered today with a magic number of one, meaning that the division crown would be theirs with a win or an Atlanta loss. Unfortunately, Kris Medlen dominated the Mets, so the Nats would have to clinch it themselves.

This seemed quite unlikely from early on. In the bottom of the second, Danny Espinosa booted a sure double-play ball from Daniel Descalso after two no-out walks from Detwiler, loading the bases with no outs for Pete Kozma, who tripled to score two runs while Descalso was thrown out at home. A Jon Jay single then scored Kozma, who was then brought home by a Carlos Beltran homer, putting the Nats in an early 5-0 hole. In the third, Detwiler walked a man and allowed a single with one out before he was pulled for Chien-Ming Wang, whose first two pitches were wild, allowing one runner to score and moving the other to third. That runner then immediately scored on a Kozma sacrifice fly. After the Nats got four back in the top of the fourth, Wang allowed another two-run home run to Beltran, putting the Nats down 9-4. Wang would finish the fourth and get two outs in the fifth before Craig Stammen replaced him to finish the inning. Christian Garcia threw a perfect sixth, and Zach Duke got out of a jam in the seventh but allowed another run in the eighth.

Things were similarly bleak on the offensive side. Only one Nat, Adam LaRoche, mustered up more than one hit, and the runs that the Nats did score were too few and too late. Homers from Bryce Harper and Espinosa contributed to a four-run fourth, cutting the deficit to three against St. Louis starter Lance Lynn, but the Nats would get no closer. The team was 1-8 with runners in scoring position, but left only five men on base thanks to the efficiency of the St. Louis staff.

Champ of the Game: LaRoche takes it by virtue of his two hits and run scored, but awarding this after today’s game might be damning by faint praise.
For St. Louis, Beltran hit two homers and had five RBI.

Chump of the Game: Detwiler, who suffered from Espinosa’s error but still walked five and allowed four hits.
Lynn was hardly effective for the Cards, allowing four runs in 5.1 IP, but still got his 18th win behind the offensive outpouring.

Unsung Hero: Harper, who is now only two homers away from the all-time rookie record set by Tony Conigliaro.
Kozma was 3-3 with three RBI.

Next Game: Tomorrow in DC, 7:05 PM. Kendrick (10-12, 4.08) v. Lannan (4-0, 4.23)

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Tags: Carlos Beltran Chien-Ming Wang Ross Detwiler St. Louis Cardinals Washington Nationals

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