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Cardinals 4-3 over Nationals: Second inning error costs Nats in loss

The Washington Nationals fell behind early after an error in the second extended the inning and the St. Louis Cardinals made them pay with a three-run frame that provided all the offense they would need in what ended up being a 4-3 win in Nationals Park.

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Winning Streak vs Cards Top 5:

5. Quick Recap: Jordan Zimmermann induced the grounder to third he wanted in his one on, one out matchup with St. Louis Cardinals' shortstop Jhonny Peralta in the top of the second inning, but Anthony Rendon threw wide of second base trying to start a 5-4-3 and pulled Danny Espinosa off the bag. One out later, with both runners in scoring position after a groundout, Cards' catcher Tony Cruz hit a two-run single to right then scored himself on an opposite field double by the opposing pitcher, Lance Lynn, as the Washington Nationals' errors once again cost them and put them behind 3-0 early.

Cards' starter Lance Lynn threw four scoreless to start today's game, but Danny Espinosa broke up the 26-year-old right-hander's streak of 12 scoreless innings on the mound in the fifth with a solo home run to right that just cleared the out-of-town scoreboard. The blast was Espinosa's first since last May 5th, and his second in seven career plate appearances against Lynn. 3-1 St. Louis.

After the Nationals failed to score when they had Lance Lynn on the ropes in the bottom of the sixth, the Cardinals added a run on a two-out RBI single to left by Matt Holliday that made it a 4-1 game.

Adam LaRoche and Anthony Rendon hit back-to-back, one-out doubles to right off Cards' right-hander Carlos Martinez in the bottom of the eighth with Rendon's two-base hit driving LaRoche in to cut the Cardinals' lead to 4-2.

Kevin Frandsen hit an RBI groundout to short off Cardinals' closer Trevor Rosenthal in the bottom of the ninth to get the Nationals within one at 4-3,

4. Zimmermann 0 for 6 vs Cards: The St. Louis Cardinals are one of only two teams (along with the Pittsburgh Pirates) that Nationals' starter Jordan Zimmermann is winless against thus far in his six-year MLB career.

Washington's 27-year-old, 2007 2nd Round pick entered this afternoon's outing in the nation's capital with an (0-3) record against the Cards in six starts vs the NL Central powerhouse. Before today's outing, Zimmermann allowed 44 hits, seven home runs and 30 runs total in 32 2/3 IP against the Cardinals, whose hitters posted a combined .324/.370/.537 line in 149 plate appearances against the Nationals' right-hander, scoring four runs or more in five of the last six outings between them.

Zimmermann bounced back from the shortest start of his major league career (1 2/3 IP vs MIA on 4/9 in Nats Park) with a strong showing against the Marlins last time out in Marlins Park in which he gave up six hits and two runs in seven innings of work against the Fish.

"Really good heater tonight," Matt Williams said after the win in Miami. "Threw to both sides of the plate. Used his slider and his changeup a lot tonight too, but everything was off the fastball, which is what he does best. So, he was good. He was aggressive."

Today in D.C., Zimmermann started strong with a quick top of the first inning...

1st: Matt Carpenter K'd swinging at a 76 mph 1-2 curve low in the zone outside for the first strikeout in the the first at bat of the game. Jon Jay rolled over an 0-1 change, sending a weak grounder out to Anthony Rendon at third. Matt Holliday took a healthy cut at a 95 mph 1-0 fastball, but came up empty. Zimmermann dropped an 80 mph 2-1 curve on Holliday to even things up at 2-2, then went to the breaking ball again for the strikeout which ended an 11-pitch, 1-2-3 first.

2nd: After Matt Adams flew to left to start the second, Allen Craig spit on a 2-1 fastball from Zimmermann and fouled off the 3-1 offering to go full before the Nats' starter missed with a breaking ball away and walked the Cards' right fielder. Zimmerman got a tailor-made double play grounder to third out of Jhonny Peralta, but Anthony Rendon committed his first error of the season when his throw to second pulled Danny Espinosa off the bag. Cardinals' second baseman Kolten Wong grounded weakly to second, advancing both runners into scoring position in front of Cards' catcher Tony Cruz who lined an 0-1 curveball to short right field for a two-run single and a 2-0 Cards' lead. Lance Lynn helped his own cause with a two-out double to right on a 2-2 fastball that brought Cruz around from first for a 3-0 advantage. 23-pitch inning for Zimmermann, 34 total after two.

3rd: Jon Jay hit an 0-1 fastball to right for a leadoff single, but he was doubled up in the next AB when Matt Holliday sent a 2-2 bender out to short to start a 6-4-3. Matt Adams lined into the shift on a one-hopper to Danny Espinosa in short right to end a quick 10-pitch top of the third. 44 pitches overall for Zimmermann after three.

4th: A six-pitch walk to Allen Craig put the leadoff man on in the Cardinals' fourth, but Jordan Zimmermann busted Jhonny Peralta inside with a 3-2 slider to get out no.1 with his third K of the day. Zimmermann jammed Kolten Wong and fielded the weak grounder the Cards' infielder sent his way. With a runner on second and two down, Zimmerman went after Tony Cruz and popped him up to center to end the frame after 19 pitches. 63 overall.

5th: Lance Lynn completed four scoreless on 51 pitches, but he was just 1 for 2 at the plate after he K'd looking at a 1-2 fastball outside. 4 Ks for Jordan Zimmermann. Matt Carpenter hit a broken-bat liner to right for the Cards' fourth hit of the game off the Nats' starter, but Jon Jay K'd swinging weakly and late at a 1-2 heater outside. 5 Ks. Matt Holliday got jammed by a 94 mph first-pitch fastball and flew to right to end a 15-pitch inning. 78 overall for Zimmermann after five.

6th: Matt Adams beat the shift with a line drive single to right over a leaping Danny Espinosa in the first at bat of the Cardinals' sixth. Allen Craig flew out to Jayson Werth on a 1-0 slider. Bryce Harper came closer than he should have with a strong throw to second when Matt Adams advanced into scoring position on a flyout to the left field corner by Jhonny Peralta. Kolten Wong hit a sharp grounder to short with two down, but Ian Desmond ignored the screen by Adams and threw Wong out. Nine-pitch inning by Zimmermann, 87 overall after six.

7th: Tony Cruz K'd swinging at a fastball inside to start the seventh with Jordan Zimmermann's sixth K. Mark Ellis was hit by a fastball on the belt inside. Adam LaRoche tried to start a 3-6-3 DP on a grounder to first by Matt Carpenter, but had to settle for the out at second when Carpenter sped down the line and beat the return throw. Jon Jay lined to left for a two-out single that brought Matt Holliday to the plate, and Holliday's two-out RBI single to left made it 4-1 Cardinals after six and a half in D.C. 13-pitch inning for Zimmermann, 100 even on the afternoon.

Jordan Zimmermann's line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks, 100 P, 71 S, 9/5 GO/FO.

• 3. Lockers and Private Conversations: Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo unwittingly started an internet meme involving the man who would one day become the Nats' fifth skipper when he talked about Matt Williams in 2010 as the sort of "fiery" personality he believed the franchise needed to instill the right sort of attitude he wanted Washington to play with under his watch. As quoted in a Washington Post article, Rizzo explained how things worked when both he and Williams were in Arizona during Williams' playing days.

"'Like we did in Arizona — [shoot], the manager didn’t have to say a word,' Rizzo said then. 'You screwed up, Matt Williams put you in a locker. And that was end of it. Mark Grace, Matt Williams, Jay Bell, Luis Gonzalez — those were the guys who gave the fines, jump peoples’ [rear], put a guy in a locker.'"

Three years later, Williams would end up getting hired as the Nationals' manager after Davey Johnson was "put out to pasture." (As Johnson liked to say). Williams was fired up this week when the Nats dropped a dispiriting 8-0 decision to the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of the current four-game set in D.C. Once the game ended and before he met with reporters that night, Williams talked to his team. He wouldn't, however, share the details of that discussion.

"That's for me and my team and nobody else's business," Williams told a reporter who asked what was said. As for the fact that the loss to St. Louis left the Nationals 1-6 against so-called "first division teams" this season, the Nats' skipper said there were three more games with Cardinals in which the Nationals could stop the chatter about his team's performance against the better teams in the league.

"They can certainly put a lot of this to rest in the next three," he said. "But we've got to play well to beat this club, they're a good team."

The Nationals beat St. Louis for the first time in eight games Friday night...

2. Two in a Row?: On Saturday in Nationals Park the Nats were looking to take two straight from the Cardinals for the first time since August of 2012, when they took the first two games of a four-game set in the nation's capital. No such luck, maybe when they play in Busch Stadium later this season then...?

1. Best Chance + Last Chance?: With Denard Span back atop the lineup, Nats' skipper Matt Williams moved Anthony Rendon back to the five-hole this afternoon.

"Generally somewhere two, five or six," Williams said last night in talking about where Rendon might hit with Span back. "Early in the season he drove in a lot of runs for us hitting lower in the order, so he's versatile."

Lance Lynn was up to 77 pitches when he walked Adam LaRoche in the sixth after giving up a one-out single through short by Jayson Werth.

Rendon stepped up with two runners on and a .375/.412/.813 line, four doubles and a home run in 17 PAs with runners in scoring position in 2014. Rendon took a 2-0 fastball low in the zone for ball three to get ahead 3-0, took a pitch that was called a strike, fouled one off and then K'd looking at a full-count fastball he thought was ball four. Home plate ump Adam Hamari disagreed. Two down. Ian Desmond got up 3-0 as well, and walked to load the bases, but Danny Espinosa stepped in against Cards' lefty Kevin Siegrist and flew out to center to end the frame.

Still 3-1 Cardinals.

A half-inning later it was 4-1 Cards when Matt Holliday hit a two-out RBI single to left to extend the lead.

The Nationals cut the Cardinals' lead to 4-2 with back-to-back, one-out doubles by Adam LaRoche and Anthony Rendon, but Carlos Martinez limited the damage.

Ross Detwiler threw to scoreless to keep it close...

Cards' closer Trevor Rosenthal popped Nate McLouth up to start the ninth, but Zach Walters walked with one down and Denard Span reached safely on a grounder to the mound that bounced off Rosenthal. The pitcher picked the ball up and made an ill-advised and late throw to second that left both runners safe. Kevin Frandsen, hitting in Bryce Harper's spot after taking over for Harper in the seventh, was at the plate when Rosenthal balked both runners into scoring position. Frandsen grounded out to short to bring in a run, 4-3. Span took third, but was stranded there when Jayson Werth struck out to end it.

Nationals now 10-8