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Washington Nationals drop third straight, 5-1 to St. Louis Cardinals: Defensive miscues all over the place in loss...

It was an ugly one for the Washington Nationals tonight in D.C., in their third straight loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, and the ninth loss in the last 12 games.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive mistakes cost Max Scherzer three runs in the first, and the Washington Nationals’ offense struggled to get much going against St. Louis Cardinals’ starter Miles Mikolas, or to take advantage of the opportunities they had, in what ended up a 5-1 loss, the third straight and ninth in the last 12 games.

Scherzer vs St. Louis: Chesterfield, Missouri-born, University of Missouri-educated right-hander Max Scherzer took on his home state team tonight looking to snap a three-start winless streak, over which the 34-year-old veteran was (0-1) with a 4.87 ERA, one walk, 26 Ks, and a .275/.284/.450 line against in 20 13 IP.

It didn’t start well for the Nationals’ ace, who gave up back-to-back, one-out singles by Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong, then had Victor Robles misjudge a weak fly to right field by Marcell Ozuna, turning it into an RBI double when he dove late trying to recover but came up empty, 1-0. Carter Kieboom charged a grounder off Jose Martinez’s bat in the next AB, but ran into the basepath and had to avoid Ozuna, and the ball snuck through for a two-run “single” that made it 3-0 Cardinals.

Scherzer held the Cards there through five, striking out 5 of the 20 batters he faced overall on 73 pitches, worked around a single and a walk in the sixth, came back out for the top of the seventh, and gave up a leadoff double and one-out single that put runners on first and third, but manager Davey Martinez stuck with the Nats’ ace, and he struck Goldschmidt out on a 97 MPH 2-2 fastball and popped DeJong up with his 110th and final pitch of the night.

Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 Ks, 110 P, 73 S, 5/5 GO/FO.

Mikolas vs Washington: Miles Mikolas, 30, took the mound tonight in D.C. (2-2) in six starts this season with a 5.29 ERA, 6.03 FIP, eight walks, 19 Ks, and a .256/.313/.526 line against in 34 IP, coming off a loss to the Cincinnati Reds which snapped a four-start unbeaten streak.

Davey Martinez talked before the game about going up against the right-hander, who he said had not been at his best “early” this season.

“He had an unbelievable year last year,” the manager said, “and he’s still a good pitcher. He’s going through some stuff right now, so hopefully we can go out there — and we’ve seen him last year when he’s really good — that we make those adjustments like we did, and we can get the ball up. I think we’ve got to get the ball up on him and attack him early.”

Mikolas held the Nationals off the board through three innings, after the Cards jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first.

Victor Robles and Howie Kendrick singled in back-to-back at bats to start the bottom of the fourth, however, and one out later, Yan Gomes hustled to first to beat out a double play and bring in the first run, 3-1.

Gomes doubled to lead off the sixth, but he was stranded three outs later, though Michael A. Taylor did fly out to the top of the left field fence for out No. 3.

Miles Mikolas’s Line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 99 P, 70 S, 8/2 GO/FO.

Soto Scratched: Juan Soto was penciled in as the starting left fielder when the lineup was initially released tonight, but he was a late scratch when a back spasm took him out. The Nationals did say he was available off the bench if needed.

The domino effect of his absence? Adam Eaton moved to left field, Michael A. Taylor started in center, and Victor Robles moved over to right field, where he misplayed a fly in the top of the first which led to the first of three runs that scored in the opening frame.

BULLPEN ACTION: Giovanny Gallegos worked around a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Joe Ross got the ball for the Nationals in the top of the eighth and gave up a leadoff walk and back-to-back hits, a double by Jose Martinez and RBI single by Yadier Molina, 4-1.

Dan Jennings made his second appearance in his second day on the Nationals’ roster, and got an out on a popped up bunt attempt by Kolten Wong, but Carter Kieboom booted the hard-hit, potential DP grounder that Harrison Bader sent his way, allowing a run to score, 5-1.

John Brebbia retired the Nationals in order in the eighth.

Matt Grace worked around a single for a scoreless bottom of the eighth inning.

Brebbia returned to the mound in the ninth and finished it off. 5-1 final.

Nationals now 12-17