The Washington Nationals loaded the bases with one down in the second, but catcher Sandy Leon grounded to third allowing the St. Louis Cardinals to throw home for a force. Nats' starter Doug Fister stepped in next with a chance to help his own cause, but struck out to end the inning and the threat.
The Cards took a 2-0 lead on a Matt Adams' two-run home run in the bottom of the second inning.
With the score 3-0 Cardinals, the Nationals loaded the bases again in the fifth with the Danny Espinosa singling to start the frame, Anthony Rendon walking and Nate McLouth hustling to first and sliding in ahead of Adams' attempt to reach the bag. Jayson Werth walked to force in a run, 3-1, but Ryan Zimmerman's groundout ended the frame.
Having scratched and clawed their way to just the second run in 23 innings in the weekend series in Busch Stadium, the Nats watched the Cards score another one in the first two at bats of the home-half of the fifth with Kolten Wong tripling and scoring on a sac fly by Matt Holliday. 4-1.
The Cardinals added another run in the seventh when Allen Craig doubled to bring Matt Holliday around from first. 5-1.
In the top of the ninth, the Nats rallied with two down, knocking reliever Sam Freeman out and forcing the Cardinals to bring on their closer in what was suddenly a save situation with the Nats once again loading the bases with Sandy Leon singling, Greg Dobbs dropping a pop fly into center and Rendon sending a grounder through to right. Adam LaRoche walked in the first at bat against Trevor Rosenthal to force in the Nationals' second run, but Jayson Werth popped out to end the game.
"You never want to have to have a ninth inning rally against [Rosenthal]," Nats' skipper Matt Williams said, "but they fought. Overall, you go through this road trip the way they went through it, it's okay. Could have been better, but we came out of it all right. Guys are tired, off day will come at a good time right now. Going west and then a long road trip, so it's coming at a good time."
The Nationals have Monday off, then they start a two-game set with the Houston Astros on Tuesday night before the Atlanta Braves come to the nation's capital.
• We talked about the Nationals' losses to the Cardinals, the road trip overall, Ryan Zimmerman at first and more on the latest edition of Nats Nightly, which is archived on our front page and available on iTunes: