Nationals rally to beat Cardinals, 3-2 on walk-off sac fly by Denard Span

Greg Fiume

The Washington Nationals trailed 2-0 after six and a half innings in the series finale with St. Louis, but rallied against the Cardinals' bullpen to tie things up at 2-2 before winning it in the ninth on a walk-off sac fly to left by Denard Span. 3-2 final in D.C.

Series Finale Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Hard-hitting first baseman Matt Adams hit a 1-0 fastball to the left-center gap for a leadoff double and St. Louis Cardinals' catcher Yadier Molina went down for a two-strike curve and dumped it into short right for a bloop single that put runners on the corners with no one out in the top of the second inning of the series finale with Washington in Nationals Park. Jhonny Peralta grounded into a 6-4-3 in the next at bat, but the first run of the game scored when Adams came in from third on the play and the Cards jumped out to a 1-0 lead.

Stephen Strasburg was cruising in the fifth, striking out the first two batters he faced, but he went with a 3-2 change in his two-out at bat with Cardinals' outfielder Peter Bourjos (.195 AVG) and missed, walking the eight-hole hitter in front of Cards' starter Shelby Miller, who followed with a two-out RBI double on a first-pitch fastball as the Cardinals took a 2-0 lead after four and a half.

The Nationals tied things up in the seventh, though, with four straight hits by Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon, Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa with Desmond's and Espinosa's driving in runs as the Nats rallied against Cardinals' right-hander Carlos Martinez. 2-2 game after seven.

After rallying to tie things up at 2-2 in the eighth, the Nationals loaded the bases with one down in the ninth against Cards' right-hander Seth Maness and Denard Span hit a walk-off sac fly to left to win it!

3-2 Nationals.

4. Sunday with Strasburg: In two career starts against the St. Louis Cardinals before this afternoon's, 25-year-old Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg was (0-1) with a 2.08 ERA, two walks (1.38 BB/9) and 16 Ks (11.08 K/9) in 13 innings, over which the Nats' '09 no.1 overall pick held Cards' hitters to a .152/.188/.217 line.

Strasburg was, however, coming off a rough outing in Miami in which he gave up eight hits, three walks and six earned runs in just four innings on the mound in Marlins Park. The rough outing against the Fish did, however, follow a strong start in D.C. against the same Marlins, who managed just three hits and one run in Strasburg's last start in the nation's capital before today, which saw him strike out 12 batters and earn his first W of the 2014 campaign in what ended up a 7-1 victory.

At home in Washington, Strasburg was (14-11) in 42 starts before this afternoon's with an ERA (2.60) a run+ lower than it is on the road (3.69) thus far in his major league career. (FIP = 2.57 in D.C., 3.08 on the road).

In his first five major league seasons, Strasburg has thrown a total of 245 2/3 IP in Nationals Park, where he has walked 47 (1.72 BB/9) and struck out 285 (10.44 K/9) while holding opposing hitters to a .217/.262/.331 line.

This afternoon in D.C., Strasburg looked sharp early...

1st: Stephen Strasburg dropped an 0-2 curve on Cards' leadoff man Matt Carpenter for a swinging K in the first at bat of today's game. Jon Jay fell behind 0-2 quickly before lining out to left on a 96 mph 1-2 fastball. Allen Craig got a 1-2 curve he had no chance of hitting and he too K'd swinging to end a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 top of the first by the Nationals' starter.

2nd: Matt Adams drove a 95 mph 1-0 fastball from Strasburg to left to start the second with a double into the left-cente gap. Yadier Molina battled for six pitches and went down for 2-2 curve, lifting it to right field for a bloop single that put runners on first and third with no one out. Jhonny Peralta stepped in with an RBI opportunity and grounded into a 6-4-3 DP that allowed the first run of the game to score. 1-0 St. Louis. Mark Ellis reached safely with a two-out single to short in spite of a tremendous effort and leaping, spinning throw by Ian Desmond, but he was stranded at first when Peter Bourjos K'd swinging at diving 1-2 change to end the inning after 15 pitches by Strasburg, who was up to 29 after two.

3rd: Shelby Miller K'd swinging over an 89 mph 2-2 change from Strasburg. K no.4. Matt Carpenter flew to left on a 95 mph 1-0 fastball. Jon Jay grounded out to second on a 96 mph 1-2 heater and ended a 12-pitch inning that left Strasburg at 41 overall after three.

4th: Allen Craig grounded out to first on a 95 mph 2-2 fastball. Matt Adams K'd swinging on a diving 90 mph 1-2 change outside for out no.2 and K no.5 for Strasburg. Yadier Molina got to a 2-2 count and K'd chasing a change into the ground to end a 15-pitch fourth. 6 Ks. Strasburg up to 56 pitches after 4 IP.

5th: Jhonny Peralta K'd swinging through a 95 mph 1-2 heater. Mark Ellis K'd swinging over an 89 mph 0-2 change that kept diving in and ended up under his hands. Peter Bourjos was up 3-1 in his two-out at bat, when he was called for a check-swing strike on a 95 mph heater low in the zone, but he took a two-out walk when Strasburg missed with a full-count change and Bourjos scored when Shelby Miller doubled to left with two down. 2-0 Cardinals. Matt Carpenter K'd swinging at a 2-2 fastball for out no.3 and Strasburg's 9th K and the 19-pitch inning left him at 75 total on the day.

6th: Jon Jay lined out to left on a 1-1 heater. Allen Craig hit a sharp one-hopper to first on which Stephen Strasburg got over to cover. Matt Adams was looking fastball when Strasburg dropped a first-pitch change in on the Cards' slugger to get ahead in the count, but the big first baseman doubled to right on a 95 mph 1-1 heater for a two-out, two-base hit. Yadier Molina stepped in with a runner in scoring position and flew out to center to end a 15-pitch sixth that had Strasburg up to 90 overall.

The Nationals hit for Strasburg in the home-half of the sixth when they got two on with one out and knocked Shelby Miller out of the game:

• Strasburg's Line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 Ks, 90 P, 63 S, 4/2 GO/FO.

3. 18 Picks Later...: With the 19th pick of the 2009 Draft, 18 picks after Stephen Strasburg went no.1 overall to the Washington Nationals, the St. Louis Cardinals took a then-18-year-old, Houston, Texas-born right-hander Shelby Miller out of Brownwood High School in Brownwood, TX after a senior year with the Brownwood Lions in which Miller was (10-2) with a 1.90 ERA, 36 walks (4.20 BB/9) and 153 Ks (17.88 K/9) in 77 innings pitched over which he allowed just 38 hits.

Three years after the Cards' selected him, he debuted in the majors as a 21-year-old on September 5, 2012. In two starts against the Nationals since then and before today, the Cardinals' starter was (2-0) with a 0.71 ERA, five walks and 11 Ks in 12 2/3 IP, over which he'd held Nats' hitters to a .156/.240/.200 line.

Today in D.C., Miller, now 23, followed Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn in the Cards' imposing rotation, starting the game with three scoreless and hitless frames in which he pitched around four walks.

Miller was up to 3 2/3 hitless when Danny Espinosa lined to right for the Nationals' first hit, and the second followed when Jose Lobaton lined to center in the next at bat, but the Cards' right-hander got Stephen Strasburg swinging to end his fourth scoreless frame at 77 pitches.

In addition to his success on the mound today, Miller came through with the bat, doubling in a run with a two-out double to left that bounced off the wall on a hop and drove Peter Bourjos in from first for a 2-0 Cardinals' lead after four and a half innings.

Miller gave up a one-out walk to Danny Espinosa and a single to center by Jose Lobaton in the sixth, putting two on in front of switch-hitting pinch hitter Zach Walters, and he was lifted after 99 pitches with a 2-0 lead.

Cards' lefty Randy Choate took over against Walters and got a grounder to third that Matt Carpenter booted. But with the bases loaded, the veteran reliever retired Denard Span and Bryce Harper to keep the Cardinals' 2-0 lead in tact.

Miller's Line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 7 Ks, 99 P, 57 S, 3/4 GO/FO.

2. Harper's Back: Manager Matt Williams was clear yesterday that though he benched Bryce Harper for his "lack of hustle" in failing to run out a groundout to the mound in the sixth inning, the 21-year-old slugger would be back in the lineup for the series finale with the St. Louis Cardinals. Harper was in the two-spot and playing left at the start of this afternoon's game and he was running full speed to first when he grounded out to short in his first at bat.

Harper's second at bat of the game came with two down in the Nationals' third, with Stephen Strasburg on first base after taking a one-out walk. Harper worked the count full and walked to bring Jayson Werth up with two on. Werth walked too but all three runners were stranded when Adam LaRoche struck out to end the third.

At bat no.3 for the Nationals' slugger came in the bottom of the fifth, with a runner on first after Denard Span's leadoff single. A 95 mph 1-2 fastball up high got Harper swinging and as MASN's Bob Carpenter noted, left him 0 for 2 with a walk today and 1 for 13 two at bats in the finale of the four-game set.

Harper's fourth at bat came in the bottom of the sixth with the bases loaded and two down. Veteran left-hander Randy Choate took over for Shelby Miller and got one out without a run scoring, then went up 0-2 on the Nats' slugger and got a groundout to short with a 2-2 sinker. 0 for 3 with a walk, 1 for 14 in the series.

Cards' lefty Kevin Siegrist was on the mound in the eighth when Bryce Harper hit a 1-0 fastball through the left side for his second hit of the series, 1 for 4 today, 2 for 15 in the series. One out later, with Adam LaRoche up, Harper stole his first base of the year to put himself into scoring position, but he was stranded there.

1. Rally... Nope... Ok... Rally... YES!?: Shelby Miller shut the Nationals down through 5 1/3 IP, but he got knocked out of the game after 99 pitches when he gave up a one-out walk to Danny Espinosa and a single to center by Jose Lobaton in the sixth.

Zach Walters hit for Stephen Strasburg there, and hit a sharp grounder to third off Cards' lefty Randy Choate that third baseman Matt Carpenter booted. Denard Span stepped in with the bases loaded and one down, took a 1-2 fastball outside for ball two; a fastball inside for ball three and a full count and then grounded weakly to first, allowing Matt Adams to throw home for the force and out no.2. Bryce Harper stepped in next, but grounded out to short to end the threat.

The Nationals rallied again in the seventh with Adam LaRoche and Anthony Rendon singling to put two on for Ian Desmond against Cardinals' right-hander Carlos Martinez. Desmond came through with the third straight hit, a grounder through the right side that brought LaRoche in from second to make it a 2-1 game and Danny Espinosa lined to right for the fourth straight hit, which drove Rendon in and tied things up at 2-2.

Craig Stammen threw a six-pitch seventh before the Nationals rallied. Jerry Blevins struck Matt Adams out to strand two in a scoreless eighth.

Bryce Harper singled with one down in the Nats' half of the eighth, and stole his first base of 2014 one out later with Adam LaRoche at the plate. A walk to LaRoche forced Cards' skipper Mike Matheny to go the pen, replacing Kevin Siegrist with RHP Pat Neshek. Anthony Rendon stepped in against the side-dealing righty and K'd looking at a 2-2 heater outside. Still tied, 2-2.

Yadier Molina grounded out to second, Jhonny Peralta flew to left, and Shane Robinson went down swinging in a seven-pitch top of the ninth by Rafael Soriano.

Cards' right-hander Seth Maness took over in the bottom of the ninth and gave up a one-out opposite field single by Danny Espinosa, who went first-to-third™ on a Jose Lobaton single to right. Nate McLouth walked to load the bases with one down. Denard Span stepped in with the bases loaded and hit a sac fly to left to win it! Walk-off winner!

Series split!!

Nationals now 11-8

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