Ever since the Cardinals unceremoniously disposed of the Nationals in the 2012 National League Division Series, this series had been circled on many Nats fans’ calendars. There were story lines of redemption not only from the team, but from one player in particular, Drew Storen. Only Storen was able to get that satisfaction, though, as the Nats dropped this one 3-2.
Pete Kozma took over right where left off last October, dropping a ball over the head of Danny Espinosa for a single in the first inning. Matt Carpenter walked after a couple pitchers that looked like strikes were called balls, and Allen Craig laced a ball that sent Denard Span crashing off the centerfield wall, but he was unable to make the catch. It was a two RBI double that gave the Cardinals an early 2-0 lead.
In the third, Kurt Suzuki walked to become the Nats first base runner of the game, and he stole second and got to third on an overthrown ball by the catcher. Despite the Nats catcher trying to generate some momentum with his legs, something you don’t hear often, Dan Haren struck out on the very next pitch, which was followed by Span rolling over a first-pitch fastball to quickly stamp out any thought of a rally.
The Nats offense came to life for the first time in 13 innings of baseball in the fourth inning. Jayson Werth led the inning off with a single, and he scored on a laced double to center field by Ian Desmond. It was Desmond’s 12th extra base hit of the season. Anthony Rendon, in his home debut, logged his first career MLB hit, a line drive opposite field double, that scored Desmond and tied the game at two.
Haren had a solid first five innings, giving up just two runs, but the wheels fell completely off in the sixth. He hit Matt Holliday to start the inning, followed by back-to-back singles by Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina, who drove in Holliday, making it at 3-2 game. He then walked David Freeze to load the bases.
Craig Stammen entered into an impossibly difficult situation, bases loaded with none out, and miraculously, he didn’t allow a runner to score. He got Jon Jay to ground back to Adam LaRoche for a 3-2-3 double play, and the Nats chose to intentionally walk Kozma to get to the pitcher, who Stammen struck out to get of the inning unscathed. He pitched a great seventh, too, completing yet another outing by the versatile righty reliever.
The Nats looked to have something going in the bottom of the seventh with two outs after a single by Danny Espinosa and a walk by Suzuki. Chad Tracy blooped a ball in to shallow right center on a broken bat, and Cardinals CF Jon Jay went a long, long way to make a very nice grab to end the inning.
Span got something going early in the eighth with a leadoff infield single. Bryce Harper walked following a Werth strikeout, but neither Adam LaRoche nor Desmond were able to get anything going. LaRoche rolled over a first pitch against Trevor Rosenthal, who was having trouble finding the zone, and Desmond took two pitches, the first and last of his at bat, right down the middle of the plate.
The best thing to happen in this game for the Nats is what took place in the top of the ninth inning, though. Drew Storen entered the game to face the Cardinals for the first time since last October’s Game 5 meltdown, and he would face Pete Kozma to lead off the inning. Storen struck Kozma out looking, perhaps ending a very unfortunate chapter in Storen’s young career.
Storen finished a 1-2-3 inning, but the Nats were unable to come back in the ninth as they dropped their second straight game and fell to 10-9 on the season. Both the Nats and Cardinals will have, arguably, their best pitchers so far this season on the mound tomorrow. Ross Detwiler (1-0, 0.90 ERA) will take on Cards ace Adam Wainwright (3-1, 2.48 ERA) at 7:05 pm at Nationals Park.