Washington Nationals Recap: Bullpen falters as Nats lose to Cardinals, 8-5


The Washington Nationals started a three-game road trip to St. Louis tonight. They were playing the team with the best record in baseball, needing to try to at least keep pace with the Mets, who were playing the Phillies for the next three games. The Nats bullpen let the game get away in the seventh inning and the Nationals lost, 8-5.

Yunel Escobar returned to the Nationals lineup after resting his injured hand for a couple of games. Jose Lobaton did the catching for Gio Gonzalez, who was the starting pitcher for the Nationals.

John Lackey pitched for the Cardinals. Lackey has had a very good year this season, and the Nationals had a tall task to try to get a win against the Cardinals with Lackey on the mound.

The Nationals scored in the top of the first. Bryce Harper hit a ball to second baseman Kolten Wong, who made an error on the play and allowed Harper to reach first. Ryan Zimmerman doubled into the right field corner and Harper scored from first with an excellent slide at the plate.

St. Louis got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth. Jhonny Peralta walked with one out and Jason Heyward hit a dribbler toward Rendon, who could not throw Heyward out. Yadier Molina hit a ball to right field that Harper almost caught but could not hold on to which scored Peralta and put runners on the corners. Wong singled to drive in Heyward. Mark Reynolds singled to drive in Molina. The Cardinals ended the inning ahead 3-1.

The Nationals picked up a run in the top of the sixth. Zimmerman led off the inning with a single, and Escobar singled to right field, which allowed Zimmerman to go to third. With runners on the corners, Ian Desmond hit a ball to short which turned into a double play, but Zimmerman scored from third.

Both Gonzalez and Lackey pitched through the sixth inning and then gave way to the bullpens.

The Nationals were glad to see Lackey out of the game and took advantage. Left hander Kevin Siegrist took over the pitching for St. Louis. Danny Espinosa started off the inning drawing a pinch hit walk. Werth struck out and Rendon popped out. Harper drew a walk. With two on, Zimmerman drilled a home run to center field to score three runs and put the Nationals ahead 5-3.

Casey Janssen pitched the bottom of the seventh for Washington. He got himself into trouble immediately. First he gave up a single to Reynolds. Then Brandon Moss hit a slow roller to second, but Janssen didn’t run to first as quick as he could have and Moss beat Janssen to the bag and he was safe. Now it was two on and nobody out. Greg Garcia pinch hit and hit into a double play. Reynolds went to third. Matt Carpenter drew a walk. Stephen Piscotty, one of the Cardinals best hitters, came to the plate. Piscotty singled to drive in Reynolds, and the score was 5-4.

Peralta made it 5-5 with a single to left field that put runners on the corners. Janssen was relieved and Felipe Rivero came in with the hope that he could end the inning with no further damage being done. Matt Williams executed a double switch, moving Rendon to third and bringing Trea Turner in to play second.

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Rivero was brought in to face Heyward, a left-hander. It didn’t work out as diagramed, as Heyward doubled to drive in two runs and put the Cardinals on top 7-5. Rivero then intentionally walked Molina. Wong singled to drive in Heyward and the Cardinals led 8-5. Reynolds, who started the inning, ended it on a groundout. But the damage had been done.

The Cardinals scored five runs with two outs on Janssen and Rivero in the seventh inning. The Nationals went from feeling like they had turned the corner and might be able to win the game on Zimmerman’s home run, to realizing that they were behind again and only had two innings to make up three runs against the Cardinal bullpen–an impossible task.

Steve Cishek pitched the top of the eighth for the Cardinals. The Nats are very familiar with him from his years in Miami. Desmond singled to lead off the inning. That was all the Nats could muster against Cishek and scored no runs.

The Nationals turned to Blake Treinen to keep the Cardinals from scoring any more runs in the bottom of the eighth,. Moss greeted Treinen with a single. Bourjos hit a grounder which looked like a double play ball but Bourjos was called safe at first. The Nationals challenged the safe call at first and won the challenge. With two outs, Treinen had to deal with Carpenter. He singled. Treinen got Piscotty to strike out.

Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal came in to close out the game. The Nats had the top of the order due up.  Werth led off the inning with a single.  Rendon singled right behind him.  Harper walked to the box representing the tying run.

The first pitch to Harper went to the backstop.  Werth started to go to third, then stopped.  Rendon got hung up between first and second and was tagged out.  Harper drew a walk to bring up Zimmerman.  Ryan popped out.  Clint Robinson pinch hit in the pitcher’s spot.  Robinson struck out and the game was over.

The Nationals are now six and a half games behind the Mets.
Next Game: The Nationals again play the St. Louis Cardinals at 8:15 pm EST at Busch Stadium. Joe Ross (5-5, 3.24 ERA) will be pitching for Washington, while the Cardinals call up Marco Gonzales from the minors to make his first start for this year.

Next: Washington Nationals Series Preview: Nats at Cardinals (8/31-9/2)

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