• Could They?: 88 years to the day that the Washington Senators clinched the first pennant in D.C. baseball history with a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on September 29, 1924, the Washington Nationals, the third franchise to call the nation's capital home, had a magic number of two heading into tonight's game with a chance to claim the first division championship for Washington since 1933 when the Senators represented the American League and the nation's capital in the postseason for the third and last time before the 2012 Nationals earned a playoff berth this year in the National League. 79 years after that last playoff game involving a D.C.-based team, (in what ended up World Series loss to the New York Giants), the Nationals would need to beat the St. Louis Cardinals tonight in Busch Stadium and have the New York Mets beat the Atlanta Braves in Turner Field if they were going to clinch the NL East... Could they do it? Would the Mets help the Nationals again?
• Do It Again! Do It AGAIN!!: Jayson Werth had a few quick words with home plate ump Corey Blaser after taking an 81 mph 2-2 change up high and inside for a called strike three in the first AB of Saturday night's game against St. Louis. Cards' right-hander Kyle Lohse tried a backdoor curve to Bryce Harper in a 1-2 count, but the Nats' 19-year-old outfielder waited for it, reached out and slapped a one-out single into center for the first Nationals' hit off the Cardinals' veteran starter. Harper took third on double no. 36 of 2012 by Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche walked to load the bases for Michael Morse, and the Nats' big middle-of-the-order bat launched a first-pitch sinker to right and... over the right field wall for an opposite field grand slam! 4-0... Na... The umpires decide to review it, but it's clearly out upon further review. Morse's 17th HR of 2012 is a grand slam to right field in St. Louis' Busch Stadium. For some reason the umpires have the Nats reenact the grand slam after having a second look and all the players retake their bases so Morse can fake a swing [he had no bat] and reenact the moment before running around the bases. 4-0 Nationals after a half. You have to watch this if you missed it...
• Zimmermann, Two "Ns", 2.0 Scoreless: Jon Jay took an 0-2 fastball from Jordan Zimmermann for a called strike three and the first out of the Cardinals' first. Grounder. Desmond. Out. Nats' SS Ian Desmond showed off his range on a grounder up the middle off Matt Carpenter's bat, getting there in the first place and then spinning to settle himself before throwing to first for out no.2. A routine fly to right from Matt Holliday ended a 15-pitch inning for the Nats' right-handed starter.
Kyle Lohse began the second at 31 pitches. The 42nd pitch of the night by the right-hander was lined to center for a two-out single by Jayson Werth, but Bryce Harper grounded out to end a 17-pitch frame by the Cards' starter. Jordan Zimmermann gave up a one-out single to right by Yadier Molina in the St. Louis' second. Carlos Beltran got hold of a 96 mph full-count fastball but it only made it to the track in center in Busch Stadium where Bryce Harper caught out no.2 of what ended up being another 15-pitch frame when Skip Schumaker K'd swinging through a 95 mph 0-2 heater.
• 4.0 Scoreless: Lohse gave up a leadoff single by Ryan Zimmerman in the top of the third, but retired the next three Nationals he faced in a 10-pitch inning. Jordan Zimmermann gave up a two-out single by Jon Jay in the home-half of the fifth, but he was through three scoreless on 50 pitches after 20-pitch 3rd ended on Matt Carpenter's fly to Morse in left. Danny Espinosa singled to start the fourth and one out later he was bunted over by Zimmermann, but Jayson Werth's groundout to second ended the second-straight 10-pitch frame by the Cards' Kyle Lohse. Jordan Zimmermann walked Matt Holliday on four pitches before giving up a single to left by Allen Craig to let the first two runners on in the Cards' fourth. Yadier Molina lined out to third. Carlos Beltran grounded to first. Skip Schumaker K'd swinging at a low 2-2 slider. Out no. 3, K no. 3. 4.0 scoreless for Zimmermann, 67 pitches overall after a 17-pitch frame.
• 5.0!! Zimmermann Rolling: Kyle Lohse got Bryce Harper looking with a two-seamer inside for his 6th K in 4.1 IP. A 1-2 sinker inside got by Ryan Zimmerman for Lohse's 7th K. Adam LaRoche lined a 2-2 slider over short for a two-out single that brought Michael Morse to the plate, but the Nats' slugger K'd looking on a generous called strike on a fastball away and Lohse had 8 Ks after his scoreless 21-pitch fifth. Cards' shortstop Pete Kozma battled for eight pitches and then lined to left for a leadoff single in the Cards' half of the fifth, but Kyle Lohse K'd trying to advance the runner with a bunt on an 0-2 pitch and Jon Jay grounded into a 6-4-3 inning-ending DP that had Zimmermann through 5.0 scoreless after another 15-pitch inning.
• 6.0!!!: Kurt Suzuki singled with two down in the top of the sixth, but Jordan Zimmermann's line drive to Jon Jay in center ended an 11-pitch inning in which Lohse collected his 9th K on the night. 4-0 Nats after five and a half innings in St. Louis. Michael Morse caught a line drive to left off Matt Carpenter's bat, Zimmermann threw a 3-2 fastball by Matt Holliday and Allen Craig grounded back to the mound to end an 11-pitch inning and Jordan Zimmermann's 6th scoreless in St. Louis. 93 pitches overall for the Nats' right-hander.
• One Too Many: Bryce Harper singled off Cardinals' reliever Edward Mujica with one down in the Nats' seventh to leave the 19-year-old National 2 for 4 tonight in the second game of three in St. Louis. Adam LaRoche singled with two down in the inning, but Michael Morse's swinging K ended the top of the seventh after 20-pitchesby Mujica. Jordan Zimmermann came back out for the bottom of the seventh and gave up the fifth hit of the night by the Cardinals when Carlos Beltran singled to right with one down on a 2-1 slider. Skip Schumaker hit the second-straight one-out single and Pete Kozma the third with Kozma's driving in both of the runners that were on to get St. Louis on the board. 4-2 D.C. A walk to David Freese put the tying run on and ended Zimmermann's night. Kozma scored on a single to right off Sean Burnett by the Cards' Jon Jay that made it 4-3 Nationals, but the Nats' lefty got out no.2 on a fly to center by Matt Carpenter and Ryan Mattheus came on to get out no.3 from Matt Holliday, who flew out to right. 4-3 Nats after seven.
• Clippard?: After Cardinals' reliever Mitchell Boggs set the Nats down in the seventh scoreless inning after Morse's HR in the first, Nats' reliever Tyler Clippard entered the game in the bottom of the eighth. A 93 mph 2-2 four-seamer popped Allen Craig up to first for out no.1. Clippard just "missed" with a low full-count fastball outside to Yadier Molina and put the tying run on with Carlos Beltran due up. Clippard got up 0-2 on the Cards' outfielder and got a 6-4-3 inning ending DP with a 93 mph four-seamer. 4-3 Nats after eight. 15-pitch inning by Clippard.
• STOREN WARNING!!!: Jason Motte retired Chad Tracy and Jayson Werth to set up a two-out at bat between the power righty and Nationals' slugger Bryce Harper. Harper doubled for the 25th time in 2012 on a 1-0 pitch from the Cardinals' reliever, leaving the rookie outfield 3 for 5 tonight and 5 for 8 two games into the series. A fly to right by Ryan Zimmerman ended the top of the ninth with Harper still on second, however. Nats' closer Drew Storen came on in the bottom of the ninth looking for his fourth save of 2012. [CHOMP!] One pitch, one out when Skip Schumaker flew out to left. Pete Kozma kept hope alive for St. Louis with a one-out single through short. Daniel Descalso came on to pinch hit, and hit the second-straight single through the right side. First and third. One out. Jon Jay stepped in with two on and flew out to center to bring the tying run in. 4-4 game, runner on first. Storen got a swinging K from Matt Carpenter for out no.3, but it was tied at 4-4 after nine in St. Louis.
• FREE BASEBALL!!!: Adam LaRoche walked to start the tenth and took second on a sac bunt by The Shark. Fernando Salas replaced left-hander Sam Freeman on the mound with one down. Ian Desmond flew out to Jon Jay in center for out no.2. The Cards walked Danny Espinosa to get to Kurt Suzuki with two on and two out. A passed ball moved both running into scoring position and the Nats' catcher drove them both in with a two-out, two-run double to the left-center gap. 6-4 Nats. Craig Stammen gave up a leadoff single to right by Matt Holliday, but got a 6-4-3 DP out of Allen Craig. Two down. Yadier Molina K'd swinging. Ballgame. 6-4 final.
The Mets didn't hold up their end of the bargain, however so the Nats' magic number was down to one after the win...
• Miss The Game? The D.C. Faithful Were Watching...
• Doghouse's Post Game WPA Graph: COMING SOON!! W00T!!
Nationals now 96-62.