Hull and Oates Top 5:
5. Quick Recap: The Washington Nationals managed just two hits total in last night's 1-0 loss in St. Louis, but they connected for two hits in the top of the first tonight with Anthony Rendon lining an opposite field single to right off of Cardinals' right-hander Shelby Miller and scoring on an RBI double to right by Jayson Werth. 1-0 Nationals.
The Cards' first hit of the night off Nats' starter Stephen Strasburg was a two-out double to right by Miller, who took a 95 mph 1-2 fastball to right for a two-base hit then scored from second when Matt Carpenter singled to center in the next at bat. 1-1 after three in Busch Stadium.
It was still tied up at 1-1 after six with Miller up to 73 pitches, and Strasburg at 86.
Miller and lefty reliever Randy Choate took the Cards through a scoreless top of the seventh and Matt Adams started the Cards' half of the inning with a solo home run to right on a 95 mph 3-1 fastball from Strasburg, making it 2-1 St. Louis. A bases-loaded walk by Drew Storen forced in the Cards' fourth run, 3-1. A swinging bunt by Allen Craig brought in another. 4-1 St. Louis after seven.
That's how it ended. 4-1 Cards final. Nats drop two straight in St. Louis.
4. Strasburg's Back: Washington Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg was on a roll when he was lifted from his last outing against the San Francisco Giants. The Nats' 25-year-old right-hander retired the last ten straight batters he faced and 13 of 14 overall, but a late-game rally allowed manager Matt Williams to go to his bullpen.
After the game, he explained that a back issue early in the start was behind the decision.
"Little bit of back stiffness tonight," Williams told reporters, "so that's why he came out. But [he] just continues to throw strikes and against a really good-hitting team, they're swinging good and tonight [he] used his changeup and his curveball effectively. He was good."
Strasburg earned the win in the Nats' 9-2 victory, improving to (6-4) on the year, with a 2.99 ERA, 2.29 FIP, 19 walks (1.96 BB/9) and 108 Ks (11.13 K/9) in 14 starts and 87 ⅓ IP so far this season.
Tonight in St. Louis, the Nationals' '09 no.1 overall pick was taking on the Cardinals for the fourth time in his five major league campaigns.
In his previous three outings before tonight's, Strasburg was (0-1) with a 2.37 ERA, three walks (1.42 BB/9) and 25 Ks (11.84 K/9) in 19 IP against St. Louis, over which he'd held Cards' hitters to a combined .176/.211/.265 line.
Strasburg's third start against the Cardinals took place in the nation's capital where he gave up two runs on five hits in six innings on the mound in which he struck out nine. The right-hander received no decision in the Nats' 3-2 win, but he successfully bounced back from a rough outing against the Marlins.
He was lifted when his spot in the order came up with two runners on in the home-half of the sixth inning of what was then a 2-0 game in the Cards' favor.
"Stras was good," Williams said after the Nats' win. "Good fastball from the get-go. Good use of his changeup today as well. Love to leave him in there, but we've got to try to tie the score. He was good though."
In his second start of the year against the Cardinals tonight, Strasburg started the game with a quick, 10-pitch opening frame...
1st: Matt Carpenter sent a 2-2 bender out to second for out no.1. Mark Ellis popped out to first. Matt Holliday lined an 0-1 fastball to right and Strasburg was through a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 first.
2nd: Cards' right fielder Allen Craig pushed his counterpart, Jayson Werth, back to the track, but flew out on a first-pitch fastball to start the bottom of the second. Yadier Molina grounded out to second for out no.2. Matt Adams fell behind 0-2, and took a 96 mph fastball for a called strike three. Another 10-pitch frame for Strasburg, 20 total after two.
3rd: Jhonny Peralta battled for seven pitches before he K'd looking at a 2-2 curve. Peter Bourjos flew out to left for out no.2. Shelby Miller walked Strasburg in the top of the third, but got his revenge, lining a 95 mph 1-2 fastball to right for a two-out double and the Cardinals' first hit. Matt Carpenter stepped in with a runner in scoring position at second and lined a single to center to bring Miller around and tie things up at 1-1, but he was thrown out at second trying to take a base on the throw home. 23-pitch inning, 43 total after three.
4th: Mark Ellis grounded out to a charging Ian Desmond at short to start the Cards' fourth. Matt Holliday fouled strike three into Jose Lobaton's mitt. Allen Craig went down swinging at an 0-2 change. 13-pitch frame, 56 total after four.
5th: Yadier Molina grounded sharply to short where Anthony Rendon made a diving play and strong throw to first. Matt Adams grounded weakly to second for out no.2, but Jhonny Peralta lined a 2-0 fastball to right for a two-out double. Strasburg walked Peter Bourjos intentionally to get to Shelby Miller (2 for 3, 2 2B vs Stras), who K'd swinging on an 0-2 curve in the dirt. 17-pitch frame, 73 total after five.
6th: Matt Carpenter flew out to Ryan Zimmerman in left to start the Cards' sixth. Mark Ellis got hold of a 95 mph 1-1 fastball and hit a ground-rule double to left-center and over the wall on a hop. Matt Holliday stepped in and hit the first pitch he saw out to short, and Ellis TOOTBLAN'd his way into an out by running for third. Allen Craig singled to center with two down to put two on in front of Yadier Molina. A passed ball moved both runners up, but Anthony Rendon made another great play on another Molina grounder to end a 13-pitch frame after Strasburg was up to 86 pitches.
7th: Matt Adams got hold of a 95 mph 3-1 fastball down and in the first at bat of the seventh and hit a solo home run out to right on a line. No doubter. 2-1 Cardinals. Jhonny Peralta lined out to right. Peter Bourjos tried to bunt his way on and was thrown out by an alert Anthony Rendon. Pinch hitter Jon Jay reached on a grounder off a diving Adam LaRoche's glove. That was it for Strasburg.
• Stephen Strasburg's Line: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 1 HR, 95 P, 63 S, 8/2 GO/FO.
3. Miller Time? Sorry, Is That An Anheuser-Busch Product?: Cardinals' starter Shelby Miller, 23, took the mound tonight in Busch Stadium with a (7-5) record in 13 starts and 77 ⅔ IP so far in 2014, over which the '09 1st Round pick put up a 3.59 ERA, 4.78 FIP, 34 walks (3.94 BB/9) and 53 Ks (6.14 K/9) while holding opposing hitters to a combined .238/.321/.385 line.
While Miller struggled in three straight losses to the Reds, Yankees and Royals in which he put up a 7.94 ERA while opponents posted a .300/.333/.429 line in 17 innings, his last outing was a strong one in which he threw a complete game shutout against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Tonight, Miller was taking on a Washington Nationals franchise he'd fared well against early in his three-year major league career. In the series between the Nats and Cards in April in the nation's capital, Miller threw 5 ⅓ scoreless in what ended up a 3-2 loss. That outing left the right-hander with a (2-0) record in three career starts vs the Nationals, over which he's given up just three runs, one earned (0.50 ERA) in 18 IP, in which he's walked 10 (5.00 BB/9) and struck out 18 (9.00 K/9) while holding Nationals' hitters to a .169/.289/.200 line.
Miller's streak of scoreless innings on the mound ended in the opening frame tonight when Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth connected for back-to-back one-out hits with Rendon singling and scoring from first when Werth doubled to right. 1-0 Nats after a 19-pitch frame by Miller. A 14-pitch, 1-2-3 second left Miller at 33 total after two.
Stephen Strasburg walked to start the Nationals' third, but he was erased on a double play grounder off Denard Span's bat and Rendon's swinging K ended a 10-pitch inning after which Miller was up to 43 pitches.
After doubling and scoring to tie it up at 1-1 in the bottom of the third, Miller took the mound in the fourth and threw a scoreless 16-pitch fourth which left him at 59 pitches overall.
Jose Lobaton singled to center with one down in the fifth, but Yadier Molina aggressively jumped on a bunt by Stephen Strasburg and cut the lead runner down at second. A pop to short by Denard Span ended a nine-pitch inning that left Miller at 68 overall after five. A five-pitch sixth left Miller at 73.
Ryan Zimmerman lined an opposite field single to right-center in the first at bat of the Nats' seventh, and two outs later Jose Lobaton walked to put two on in a 1-1 game. Nats' skipper Matt Williams left Strasburg in with the go-ahead run at second, and Miller walked the opposing pitcher. Randy Choate came on to face Denard Span, who grounded into a force on the first pitch he saw.
• Shelby Miller's Line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 Ks, 101 P, 63 S, 6/2 GO/FO.
2. St. Louis Blues Continued: Last night's loss in the series opener left the Nationals 2-3 against St. Louis in 2014 and 2-9 against the Cardinals in the last two seasons. In Busch Stadium III, which opened for business in 2006, the Nationals were 5-20 overall after last night's loss and just 2-16 since 2008, as mentioned in the Nationals' pregame notes for tonight's matchup. Their last regular season win in St. Louis came on September 29, 2012, when they blew a lead in the ninth inning and then rallied to win it in extras with a two-run double by Kurt Suzuki putting the Nationals ahead before Craig Stammen closed it out.
Since then, the Nationals are 0-5 in Busch Stadium. After tonight's loss, that's updated to 5-21, 2-17 and 0-6.
1. The Wrap-Up: Jerry Blevins took over for Stephen Strasburg with one on and two out in the seventh and walked the only batter he faced before the Nationals went to the pen for Drew Storen, who hit the first batter he faced, Mark Ellis, to load the bases with two down. Matt Holliday stepped in with three runners on and went to a 3-0 count and walked him on a 3-1 pitch. 3-1 Cardinals. Allen Craig dropped a swinging bunt down that dribbled out toward third, allowing another run to score. 4-1.
Trevor Rosenthal gave up a leadoff walk to Ryan Zimmerman in the ninth, but after a swinging K from Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa grounded out to first and Zimmerman got caught in a double play.
Ballgame. 4-1 Cards.
Nationals now 35-32