Half Street Top 5:
5. Quick Recap: Washington Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez did what Nats' starter have struggled to do recently, hold the opposition off the board early in tonight's game with the St. Louis Cardinals. After the 28-year-old southpaw's third scoreless inning of work, 23-year-old Nationals' third baseman Anthony Rendon gave Gonzalez a 1-0 lead to work with when he took a first-pitch curve from Cards' starter Michael Wacha for a ride to left field for a solo blast that landed in the visitor's bullpen. 1-0 Nationals early in D.C.
A half-inning after the Nationals went ahead, however, the Cardinals tied things up.
Allen Craig just missed an opposite field home run to right on a 3-1 fastball and settled for a double. Yadier Molina's single to right moved Craig to third and an RBI line drive to right by Mark Ellis drove the Cards' runner in and tied it up at 1-1.
Gonzalez and Wacha held it there through six and a half, but the Nationals took the lead in the bottom of the seventh when two runs scored on a fastball in the dirt from the Cards' starter that got away from Yadier Molina.
Ian Desmond scored on the pitch in the dirt to Zach Walters and Danny Espinosa followed him in when Molina rushed a throw to the covering pitcher that ended up in the third base dugout. 3-1 Nationals.
4. Gio vs the Cards: Gio Gonzalez, 28, entered tonight's game with a (1-1) record and a 1.13 ERA in two regular season starts against St. Louis, in which he'd allowed three walks (1.69 BB/9), collected 14 Ks (7.88 K/9) and held Cardinals' hitters to a .200/.241/.273 line in 16 innings. After two starts against New York and Miami in which he allowed six hits and one earned run in 12 IP, Gonzalez had a tough time with Atlanta in last weekend's start in Turner Field, which saw him allow nine hits, four walks and six runs in six innnings of work.
Gonzalez was back in the nation's capital tonight, however, where the left-hander was (16-8) in his career with a 2.55 ERA, 62 walks (2.88 BB/9) and 189 Ks (8.77 K/9) in 194 IP over which he'd held opposing hitters to a .220/.282/.327 line before tonight.
1st: Cards' leadoff man Matt Carpenter flew to left on a 94 mph 2-2 fastball from Gonzalez to start the second game of four for the Cardinals in the nation's capital. The Nats' lefty was "talking to himself" on the mound after he "missed" with a full-count fastball and walked Jhonny Peralta with one down. Gonzalez threw a 94 mph 1-2 four-seamer by Matt Holliday for a swinging K and out no.2, but Allen Craig kept the top of the first inning alive with a two-out drive to left that put two runners on in front of St. Louis' backstop Yadier Molina. Molina took a first-pitch fastball for a ride to left, but it died on the track in a chilly Nats Park and Bryce Harper caught out no.3 of a 20-pitch first inning in front of the Samuel Adams sign in the left field wall.
Had another good night.. Gotta say thanks to the Hagerstown suns for rolling out the red carpet for me.. Now time to get back to #work— Denard Span (@thisisdspan) April 19, 2014
2nd: Mark Ellis hit a flyout to right to start the second. Danny Espinosa threw out Shane Robinson. Peter Bourjos popped to foul territory off first and ended a quick, 8-pitch, 1-2-3 frame for Gio Gonzalez.
3rd: Michael Wacha K'd swinging through a full-count fastball in the first at bat of the third. Matt Carpenter was blown away by a 1-2 heater for out no.2 and K no.3. Gio Gonzalez dropped a filthy 0-1 change on Jhonny Peralta to get ahead on the Cards' shortstop before popping him up to foul territory off first for his second straight 1-2-3 frame. 17-pitch inning, 45 pitches overall after three.
4th: Matt Holliday grounded out to short to start the Cards' fourth, but Allen Craig doubled to right on a 3-1 fastball in the next at bat, bouncing one off the UNITED Airlines sign on the right field wall. Craig took third on a single to left by Yadier Molina in the next at bat and scored when Mark Ellis lined an RBI single to right that a sliding Jayson Werth couldn't quite catch. 1-1 game. Shane Robinson K'd swinging and Peter Bourjos K'd looking in the next two at bats, and Gonzalez stranded two runners at the end of a 22-pitch inning. 67 pitches overall.
5th: Michael Wacha went down looking at a 1-2 change for out no.1 in the 5th and Gio Gonzalez's 6th strikeout. Matt Carpenter lined out to left for out no.2 and Jhonny Peralta was punched out on a check-swing strike three that ended a 14-pitch inning which had the Nats' lefty at 81 pitches overall.
6th: Gio Gonzalez got two outs with three pitches to Matt Holliday (fly to right) and Allen Craig (grounder to third). Yadier Molina got ahead 3-1, but grounded out to short to end an eight-pitch, 1-2-3 inning. 89 pitches total.
7th: Mark Ellis flew to center. Shane Robinson grounded out to second. Peter Bourjos sent a swinging bunt rolling out in front of the plate, but Jose Lobaton jumped on it and threw the Cards' outfielder out at first base. 12-pitch inning, 101 overall for Gio Gonzalez.
3. To be the best...: Matt Williams was clear last night that he wasn't concerned about the Nationals' record in games against so-called "first division" opponents like the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals, against whom the Nationals were 1-6 this season before tonight.
"I'm not alarmed," about the losses Williams said. "I'm alarmed, if anything, about us. If we take care of things then we've got a chance every day. But there's been some games where we haven't done that. So that's what we'll strive to do."
As soon as the loss in the series opener ended, and after a conversation with his team, the details of which he chose not to share with reporters, the first-year skipper said it was on the the next game and the chance it presented to turn it all around.
"They can certainly put a lot of this to rest in the next three," Williams said. "But we've got to play well to beat this club, they're a good team."
Tonight in Nationals Park, the Nationals went toe-to-toe with the Cardinals, and beat them 3-1 to snap an eight-game losing streak against St. Louis.
2. Wacha, Wacha, Wacha: 22-year-old, 2012 Cardinals' 1st Round pick Michael Wacha was one out away from a no-hitter against the Washington Nationals last September in St. Louis when Ryan Zimmerman's infield single broke up the young right-hander's bid for baseball immortality. His first and only start against the Nats before tonight ended after 8 2/3 IP scoreless in which he gave up just that one hit, walked two and struck out nine. Wacha outdueled Gio Gonzalez in that outing, and matched up against the Nationals' left-hander again tonight in Washington, D.C.
Wacha's no-hit bid ended early tonight when Danny Espinosa bunted his way on with two down in the second, but the Cards' starter completed two scoreless against the Nationals tonight before his scoreless inning streak against Washington ended on a two-out solo home run to left field by Anthony Rendon, who took a first-pitch curve for a ride into the visiting team's bullpen. 1-0 Nationals after three.
Anthony Rendon wrecking the ball so far. Third homer, OPS over .950. http://t.co/vgN6Fb9wsY— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) April 19, 2014
After the Cardinals tied things up in the top of the fourth, Wacha responded with a 12-pitch inning in which he erased an ROE with a double play grounder and struck Danny Espinosa out. 52 pitches overall after four. A 14-pitch, 1-2-3 sixth left Wacha at 66 pitches. A nine-pitch, 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth pushed him up to 75 pitches.
Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond hit back-to-back opposite field singles off Wacha to start the seventh. Wacha threw to third on a bunt by Danny Espinosa, trying to cut down the lead runner, but Matt Carpenter had the ball pop out of his glove. Everyone was safe. Nate McLouth stepped in with the bases loaded and no one out and struck out on a 94 mph 1-2 heater. Wacha shuffled a pass to Yadier Molina for the force at home on a swinging bunt by Jose Lobaton. Zach Walters hit for the pitcher in the next at bat and two runs scored on a wild pitch that bounced off Molina and shot down the first base side in foul territory. Molina recovered it, but rushed a throw to the covering pitcher that went all the way into the third base dugout allowing the second run to come in, 3-1 Nationals.
1. Clipp, Store and Sor: Tyler Clippard got himself into some trouble quickly in the top of the eighth with Jon Jay doubling to right and Matt Carpenter walking to start the inning. Jhonny Peralta worked the count full and battled for twelve pitches before grounding back to the mound and off Tyler Clippard's glove. Clippard recovered to get the out at first, but his night ended with runners on second and third and one out.
Drew Storen inherited a tough situation with Matt Holliday up at the plate with two runners in scoring position. Holliday popped out to first on a first-pitch fastball. Allen Craig stepped in next and fell behind 1-2 before grounding out to short. 3-1 Nationals after seven and a half.
Pitch it, Soriano! Pitch it, Soriano! Strike'em out, Soriano! Strike'em out, Soriano! Rafael Soriano came on in the ninth looking for save no. 4 of 2013. Yadier Molina grounded back to the mound and off Soriano's leg, but the Nats' closer made the play. Mark Ellis walked with one down. Shane Robinson sent a 1-2 pitch back to the mound to start a 1-6-3, game-ending DP.
Work's done. Untuck that jersey, son! Save no.4 for Soriano. Ballgame. 3-1 final.
Nationals now 10-7