Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) forces out St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Allen Craig (21) at second and throws to first to complete a double play during the seventh inning at Nationals Park. The Cardinals won 3-2.
Losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in Nationals Park is fraught with memories of the catastrophe of last fall and the Washington Nationals and their fans got a taste of it again last night. With the chilly night air bringing back memories of the same cold from game 5 of the NLDS last year, the Nationals fell behind early, tied the game in the middle innings, but then could not hold on as, once again, the pitching faltered and the offense failed to produce hits and runs when needed. The final score last night: 3-2. It's Washington's fourth straight loss at home, after the humiliating sweep by the Braves last week, and drops the Nats' record to a pedestrian 10-9.
The Nats managed only five hits all night and no player claimed more than one of them, a sign that the whole team is struggling against Cardinals pitching.
The Cardinals got things started in the third inning when Pete Kozma and Matt Carpenter reached base and were driven home when Allen Craig doubled to deep center field, just out of the reach of Denard Span, to plate both baserunners. It seemed an ominous beginning for pitcher Dan Haren, who has struggled mightily this season after signing a one-year contract with the Nats worth $13 million. However, Haren slammed the door shut in the third after that and cruised through the fourth and fifth innings without trouble. With only two earned runs in the first five innings, it was Haren's best outing of the season.
The lofty expectations were broad, weren't they? Much of the lofty expectation for the 2013 Washington Nationals were because the team was loaded from stellar starting pitching to a fearful offense. However, the Nationals have been getting average pitching and the offense has disappeared. Last night was no different.
The Nats collected just 5 hits and 2 runs and dropped a 3-2 decision to the St. Louis Cardinals to drop their second straight game. They have now lost 3 of their last 4 and dropped to 10-9 overall. Both Nats runs came in the fourth inning. Ian Desmond doubled in Jayson Werth to narrow the Cards lead to 2-1. Prospect Anthony Rendon, filling in for an injured Ryan Zimmerman, collected his first major league hit and RBI, when he doubled in Desmond to tie the game at 2-2.
Dan Haren (1-3) could not hold the lead, getting into trouble in the sixth inning to allow the Cards to take a 3-2 lead. Craig Stammen relieved Haren in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and no outs. Stammen forced a double play, started at home plate, then fanned Shelby Miller to get out of the sixth without further damage. Unfortunately for the Nats, that was all the damaged that was required. Haren's ERA for the season sites at 7.36, clearly not what the Nats anticipated when inking Haren to a nice free agent deal.
Stammnen, Ryan Mattheus, and Drew Storen pitched 4 scoreless innings of relief, allowing just 2 hits. But again, the Nationals offense simply disappeared.
The Nats played game two tonight against the Cards. Ross Detwiler will face Adam Wainright.