Washington Nationals' lefty Gio Gonzalez and St. Louis Cardinals' right-hander Michael Wacha allowed a run each through six innings tonight in Nationals Park.
After Gonzalez retired the Cards in order in a 12-pitch the top of the seventh, the Nats threatened to break up the 1-1 tie. Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond hit back-to-back opposite field singles and when Danny Espinosa tried to bunt his way on, Wacha threw to third trying to cut the lead runner down, only to have the ball go in and out of Matt Carpenter's glove.
With the bases loaded and no one out, the Cardinals' 22-year-old, second-year starter struck Nate McLouth out and threw home for a force on a grounder back to the mound by Jose Lobaton. With pinch hitting slugger Zach Walters up, however, Wacha bounced an 0-1 change that got away from Cardinals' catcher Yadier Molina and rolled out toward first base.
Molina collected it quickly and threw it to the covering pitcher, but Desmond broke for home as soon as it got away and he slid in hard, upending Wacha as the ball got by the plate and rolled into the first base dugout.
Danny Espinosa came in on the error and the Nationals took a 3-1 lead.
For once it was St. Louis making the errors and Washington taking advantage of the defensive miscues.
"You never see a ball get away from Yadi, ever," Williams told reporters after the Nationals beat the Cards for the first time since Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS. "But heads up baserunning and aggressive baserunning and overall they played it really well."
Anthony Rendon crushed a first-pitch curve in the third inning to get the Nationals on the board and the rare error by Molina in the seventh allowed the Nats to take the lead.
"It's difficult to score against [Wacha]," Williams said. "It's hard. Especially with the stuff he's got and with [Molina]. Like I said, the ball never gets away from [Molina] but that one was far enough and Desi made the decision instantly to get toward the plate and then we were able to pick up the other one off the bad throw."
Williams was impressed with Desmond's situational awareness and reaction when he saw the pitch bounce away from the plate.
"I think he read it correctly," the Nats' skipper said. "I think he was anticipating a pitch in the dirt. Certainly after the first strike that [Wacha] threw Zach, the changeup, there's a chance he might throw another one there so [Desmond] was decisive and went immediately."
The Nationals' bullpen made the 3-1 lead hold up and the Nats beat the Cardinals to snap an eight-game losing streak to St. Louis.
A night after Adam Wainwright shut the Nationals' batters down and shut them out, Williams' team was able to beat the Cardinals. The history between the two franchises, most of which comes from before Williams took over on the bench in D.C., is not something the new manager has given much thought.
"I hadn't looked at it," he admitted. "I don't pay attention to those things. But they're a tough team to beat, that's the reason they've been in the playoffs and they've been so good is they do things right and we just happened to take advantage of one tonight."
• We talked about the Nationals' win, the work the bullpen did tonight, Rafael Soriano making it interesting and the Nats finally beating the Cardinals on the latest episode of Nats Nightly: