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Nationals blow late lead, settle for 1-1 tie with Cardinals: Gio Gonzalez sharp vs Cards

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The Nationals took a 1-0 lead over the Cardinals into the bottom of the ninth, but a solo home run tied things up and the Nats and Cards settled for a 1-1 draw.

MLB: Washington Nationals-Media Day Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Gio Gonzalez tossed three scoreless innings on 29 pitches and five other Washington Nationals’ pitchers combined to shut the St. Louis Cardinals out through eight, but a solo home run by Patrick Wisdom tied things up at 1-1 in the ninth.

Wilmer Difo provided all the offense the Nationals generated in the third, singling to center to start the frame, taking third on an errant pick attempt by Lance Lynn and scoring on a groundout for an early 1-0 lead that held up through eight.

Here’s how it happened:

Gonzalez’s second Grapefruit League outing started with a leadoff walk to Dexter Fowler, who took a 3-2 fastball low and away for ball four in the home-half of the first inning, but the first baserunner of the afternoon was erased on a 5-4-3 DP and a grounder to short ended a nine-pitch frame.

Jedd Gyorko lined a fastball to center field for a one-out single in the Cards’ second, but a grounder to second base by Kolten Wong started an inning-ending 4-6-3.

An 11-pitch second, and 20 total for Gonzalez after two.

Gonzalez’s nine-pitch, 1-2-3 third left him at 29 pitches total after three scoreless and relatively trouble-free innings, though there were a few well-struck balls in the Cards’ third.

Wilmer Difo was 1 for 2 on the day and 6 for 15 so far this Spring after he sent a one-hopper off the mound and into center to start the Nationals’ half of the third. He took third on an errant pick attempt by Cardinals’ starter Lance Lynn and scored when Grant Green grounded out to short in the next at bat, 1-0.

Joe Nathan took over on the mound for the Nationals in the fourth. Randal Grichuk lined an 0-1 pitch up in the zone outside to left for a two-out double, but Nathan got Stephen Piscotty looking with a 3-2 fastball to end a scoreless 15-pitch inning.

Nats’ outfield prospect Andrew Stevenson showed off his range tracking down a well-hit fly to right field off Jedd Gyorko’s bat in the bottom of the fifth inning, helping to get Matt Albers through a quick, seven-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.

Stevenson lined a leadoff single to right in the seventh, squaring up an 0-1 fastball from Cardinals’ right-hander Arturo Reyes.

Right-handed reliever Jimmy Cordero, acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies for a PTBNL in late November 2016, was throwing serious heat with considerable sinking action on his fastball and a nice breaking ball he was able to throw for strikes in a 13-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.

Trevor Gott was a little wild, issuing a leadoff walk to Yadier Molina and hitting Jedd Gyorko on the hand with two down, but he completed a scoreless, 22-pitch frame to keep the Cardinals off the board through seven, 1-0 Nats.

Jacob Turner, 25, gave up a two-out double and a two-out walk, but got a force at second on a grounder to short to end a scoreless, 16-pitch eighth inning.

Nick Lee took the mound in the ninth and gave up a solo home run by Patrick Wisdom that tied it up a 1-1. Lee left the game with an apparent injury to his left arm, replaced by Taylor Hill, who worked around a walk for a scoreless ninth.

That was it, no extras today...