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Washington Nationals snap five-game losing streak with 5-2 win over St. Louis Cardinals

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First they got the band back together, then they snapped their losing streak.

MLB: Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Erick Fedde rebounded from his rough season-opening start with a strong showing in St. Louis, and Washington’s Nationals, who got three players back off of the COVID-IL before tonight’s series opener in Busch Stadium, snapped a five-game losing streak in a 5-2 win over the Cardinals.

Fedde vs the Cards: Erick Fedde made the Opening Day roster as part of the bullpen, but he made his first appearance of the season as part of the Nationals’ starting rotation.

His initial appearance was not a good one. Fedde, 28, didn’t make it out of the second inning in his start against the Atlanta Braves last week.

He gave up six hits, three walks, and a total of six runs, five earned, in a 45-pitch, 27-strike outing.

Assessing his own struggles, Fedde said his fastball was up and he kept falling behind in the count, and that, he acknowledged, “pretty much led to everything.”

Fedde was sharp (and, more importantly, down in the zone) early tonight in St. Louis, retiring the first six Cardinals’ batters he faced, striking out four straight as he completed two quick, back-to-back, 15-pitch frames.

Matt Carpenter singled to start the Cards’ third, and scored from second two outs later on an RBI single to center by Tommy Edman that tied it up at 1-1 after the Nationals got out to an early lead.

Fedde held the Cardinals there through four, but got himself in trouble with back-to-back, one-out walks in the bottom of the fifth, and the opposing pitcher bunted to advance both runners/give up an out, so Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez went to the bullpen for right-hander Kyle Finnegan at that point...

Erick Fedde’s Line: 4.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 Ks, 77 P, 45 S, 4/4 GO/FO.

Gant vs the Nats: John Gant, 28, went back and forth between the bullpen and rotation in his first three seasons in the majors, before switching to relief work exclusively in the past two seasons, over which he put up a 3.43 ERA in 81 13 IP.

“Johnny’s had a heart to start but has pitched out of the ‘pen necessarily,” Cards’ skipper Mike Shildt said, as quoted on MLB.com, in announcing that Gant would be back in their rotation to start the 2021 campaign.

“He was given a full opportunity to start, and he seized it,” Shildt added.

Gant gave up four hits and three walks in four innings in his 2021 debut, with one unearned run crossing the plate while he was on the mound.

Tonight, in the series opener with the Nationals, the right-hander gave up a triple to right-center on the first pitch he threw to Victor Robles in the game-opening at bat, and a one-out RBI single by Juan Soto made it a 1-0 game early.

Yan Gomes singled and Erick Fedde walked (while trying desperately to bunt) in the next at bat, giving the Nationals two on with no one out in the top of the third, and two outs later a walk by Juan Soto loaded the bases in front of Josh Bell, who K’d swinging to end the threat.

It was a 1-1 game in the sixth when Juan Soto singled and Josh Bell walked to start the frame and push Gant up to 83 pitches, then Kyle Schwarber stepped in and lined a 1-0 sinker into right-center for an RBI double and a 2-1 lead. That was it for Gant...

John Gant’s Line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 Ks, 85 P, 48 S, 6/3 GO/FO.

COVID Clearance: Before today’s game the Nationals reinstated Josh Bell, Josh Harrison, and Kyle Schwarber, so manager Davey Martinez got to pencil all three into the lineup for the first time this season, and he was excited.

“I talked to them this morning when they landed,” Martinez said in his pregame Zoom call with reporters, “and I asked them how they were doing and without hesitation, all three of them said to put them in the lineup, that they’re ready to go. So, they’re in there today. I’m excited about it.”

Bell went 1 for 3 with two walks and two runs scored. Schwarber went 2 for 5 with an RBI.

Harrison went 1 for 4 on the night.

Bullpen Action: Kyle Finnegan took over for Erick Fedde with two on and two out in the fifth, and got an inning-ending groundout to second to strand both runners, still 1-1.

Giovanny Gallegos took over for the Cards with runners on second and third and no one out in the top of the sixth, and got a fly to foul territory in right off of Starlin Castro’s bat to bring Bell in from third, 3-1.

Finnegan returned to the mound in the bottom of the sixth and retired the first two batters he faced before giving up a solo shot to center by Yadier Molina on a 96 MPH 2-2 sinker, 3-2 Nationals.

Make that 4-2 Nationals, after Andrew Stevenson hit a 1-0 fastball from Gallegos into the right field bullpen for his 1st of the 2021 campaign in a pinch hit at bat in the seventh.

Tanner Rainey gave up leadoff and one-out singles but stranded both runners in a 12-pitch seventh.

Andrew Miller walked Josh Bell and gave up back-to-back singles by Kyle Schwarber and Starlin Castro, 5-2. Josh Harrison connected for the third consecutive single, loading the bases and ending Miller’s night.

Ryan Helsley came on for the Cards and got Yan Gomes swinging for out No. 1, before Ryan Zimmerman hit a fly to center on which Kyle Schwarber tried to tag up and score from third only to have Cardinals’ center fielder Dylan Carlos throw him out at home.

Daniel Hudson worked a scoreless, 12-pitch eighth.

Helsley gave up back-to-back, two-out singles by Soto and Bell in the top of the ninth, and Tyler Webb came on and struck Schwarber out to end the inning.

Brad Hand came on in the ninth and wrapped up the win and his first save with a scoreless, 26-pitch frame, working around a two-out single and walk. Ballgame.

Final Score: 5-2 Nationals

Nationals now 2-5