It wasn't the same John Smoltz on the mound tonight in St. Louis that Washington fans saw in Nationals Park with the Red Sox a few weeks back. It was more like the Smoltz of old, albeit with significantly less zip on his heater, but the new St. Louis' starter threw 93 pitches over 6.0 innings against the visiting team from the nation's capital, striking out 6 and allowing just 1 walk and 1 ER, on a sac fly by Pete Orr that scored Alberto Gonzalez after "The General" had singled and taken third on Cristian Guzman's one-out hit in the third...John Lannan matched Smoltz frame for frame, (Hmmm, has that happened before?), and then threw two more than the Cards' veteran, pitching his way out a bases-loaded jam in the second with only one crossing and inducing 17 groundouts from the 27 batters he faced, giving up just 4 hits and 2 ER in 8.0 IP over which he threw 91 pitches, 62 for strikes.
The second run Lannan allows comes an inning after Elijah Dukes and Josh Bard had hit back to back doubles to off right-handed reliever Blake Hawksworth to break a 1-1 tie in the seventh. Lannan gets a groundout to first from Cardinals' center fielder Colby Rasmus for the first out of the eighth, but then throws a 3-1 fastball to pinch hitter Khalil Greene that ends up in the left field stands. 2-2 ballgame when DC reliever Jason Bergmann takes over on the mound in the bottom of the ninth against Alberto Pujols. After a high 94 mph fastball that Pujols fouled off, the future Hall of Famer got a fastball up and in, again at 94, that had the nicest fans in baseball expressing displeasure, but a moment later it was ecstacy as the Cards' 6'3'', 230 lb slugger connected on his 41st HR of 2009, a walk-off HR that sends them home happy. Cardinals win, 3-2 final.
• Nationals' Game MVP: Tied?
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Check Out The SB Nation's St. Louis Cardinals Blog: Viva El Birdos GameThread.
• Nationals' Game MVP: Tied?
It would be easy to give DC lefty John Lannan the MVP of the game for the Nationals, after all, he did hold a powerful Cardinals' lineup to just 4 hits and 2 ER in 8.0 innings, but that would overlook the effort that Elijah Dukes made in the outfield and at the plate this evening. The Nationals' right fielder finished the game 3 for 4 with a run scored and two doubles, but it was his range in the outfield and the fearlessness he showed running into the wall to make an impressive catch in the bottom of the eighth to rob Julio Lugo that stood out. Dukes gets my MVP vote. Now just keep it going every night...
Washington Nationals At St. Louis Cardinals. Game 129 Of 162.
John Smoltz gets a groundout to second from Cristian Guzman to start the Friday night game between the Cardinals and Nationals. "Pinch Hittin’" Pete Orr rips a single through second for the first hit of the game. With Ryan Zimmerman up, Pete Orr steals second and takes third when Yadier Molina’s throw sails into center. Zimmerman K’s chasing a fastball off the plate. Adam Dunn hits a sharp grounder into the shift but can’t beat Julio Lugo’s throw to first...Julio Lugo grounds back to the mound, John Lannan makes the play and the throw for the first out. Ryan Zimmerman gets to a grounder in the hole from Brendan Ryan and throws him out at first.
Josh Willingham takes a 2-1 pitch to short right for the first out of the second. Elijah Dukes grounds back up the middle, but Julio Lugo’s waiting for it. Josh Bard goes down swinging to end a quick frame for Smoltz...Matt Holliday takes an 0-1 pitch to the left field corner for a leadoff double. Ryan Ludwick walks to put two on for Mark DeRosa, who singles through short to load the bases. Yadier Molina grounds into the DP, but a run scores to make it 1-0 Cards. Colby Rasmus grounds back to the mound to end the second.
Alberto Gonzalez finds a hole near second and sneaks a single through. John Lannan’s trying to bunt, but he gets fooled by a bender outside that’s called strike three. Willie Harris rips a single through second, Alberto Gonzalez takes third. Pete Orr battles Smoltz and ends up lining out to right for a sac fly RBI. 1-1. Ryan Zimmerman up, and Willie Harris gets nailed trying for second...John Lannan strikes out Smoltz to start the Cards’ third. Lannan throws a fastball outside by Julio Lugo. Pete Orr throws out Brendan Ryan to end a quick third.
Ryan Zimmerman takes a fastball outside for ball four. Adam Dunn takes a full-count slider outside for a called strike three. Josh Willingham flies out to left. Elijah Dukes reaches safely on a hard hit grounder to short. Josh Bard grounds out to second to end the Nationals’ fourth...Albert Pujols grounds back to the mound again. Matt Holliday grounds to first, and Adam Dunn gets down to pick it. Lannan issues a two-out walk to Ryan Ludwick. Mark DeRosa flies to right, Dukes catches it coming in.
Alberto Gonzalez grounds right back to Smoltz. John Lannan swings weakly at a cruel off-speed pitch. Willie Harris gets jammed and flies out to right...Yadier Molina reaches for a fastball outside that get grounded weakly to second. Colby Rasmus rolls the second out to first. John Smoltz flies out to center to end the fifth...Pete Orr leads off the sixth with a groundout to short. Ryan Zimmerman grounds out to short. Adam Dunn can’t lay off or connect with Smoltz’s two-strike bender...Cardinals’ sixth, Julio Lugo hits a line drive single to the right-center gap to start the frame. Brendan Ryan grounds to third, Ryan Zimmerman gets it, but throws away the DP attempt at second. Elijah Dukes sprints to the right field line to catch a pop fly from Pujols. Matt Holliday grounds to third, Zimmerman steps on the bag and throws to first to end the sixth.
Blake Hawksworth takes over on the mound for Smoltz. Josh Willingham pops out to second to start the seventh. Elijah Dukes explodes on a change and doubles to the left field corner with one down. Josh Bard pulls a fastball to right and it drops in for the second-straight double to score Dukes and make it 2-1 DC. Alberto Gonzalez grounds to first, John Lannan to second and it’s 2-1 DC in the seventh...Ryan Ludwick grounds out to Ryan Zimmerman. Elijah Dukes goes back to the track to catch the second out off Mark DeRosa's bat. Ryan Zimmerman picks a weak grounder from Yadier Molina and throws to first to end the seventh.
Dennys Reyes vs Willie Harris in the eighth. Harris flies out to short center. Pete Orr grounds out to Lugo at second. Ryan Zimmerman takes a two-out walk. Adam Dunn grounds into the shift, and it’s 2-1 in the middle of the eighth...Colby Rasmus grounds out to Ronnie Belliard at first. Khalil Greene gets a 3-1 fastball out over the plate and he sends it out over the left field wall to tie it at 2-2. Elijah Dukes runs into the wall while making a catch on a fly ball to the right field corner by Julio Lugo. Brendan Ryan grounds to short, and Alberto Gonzalez makes the play.
Josh Willingham grounds out to short to start the ninth. Cards’ right-hander Jason Motte gets Josh Bard to fly out weakly to right. Alberto Gonzalez does the same...Albert Pujols vs Jason Bergmann. Bergmann hangs a 1-1 slider and it’s over. Walk-off HR.
Nationals now 46-83.