Zimmermann Falls Short of 20th Win As Nats Get Swept

Even though it was Pete Kozma's bad throw that allowed Ryan Zimmerman to break up Michael Wacha's no-hitter last night, it appears the curse of Game 5 is still alive.

The Cardinals wore down Jordan Zimmermann in his final start of the season, denying him a chance at 20 wins, and beat the Nationals (83-76) 4-1, marking the Nats' seventh straight loss to St. Louis since winning Game 4 of last year's NLDS.

Since the Nats are eliminated from postseason play, the loss has no bearings on any relevant standings, but the Nats finish the year with two sweeps at the hands of the Cardinals, meaning they have yet to beat them since their crushing defeat

Today’s contest got off to a good start for the Nats. In the top of the first, after Cardinals starter Shelby Miller gave free passes to two of the first three Nats, Bryce Harper hit an RBI single that scored Denard Span and put the Nats on top 1-0.

In the bottom of the frame, Zimmermann got his 20th win chase off to a strong start by retiring the Cardinals in order. The teams traded clean innings in the second, but as has happened in too many games recently, the Nats couldn’t hold it together.

Daniel Descalso led off the bottom of the third with a double, and after a sacrifice, he was driven in on a groundout that tied the game at one. After the Nats got one hit in the fourth, the only hit in their past 12 batters, the Cardinals struck again in the home half.

A hit by pitch, a double, and a single led to two more St. Louis runs, giving them a 3-1 lead that looked much greater with the way the Nats were hitting. They managed a measly single in both the fifth and sixth, but were largely subdued by the rookie Miller.

A Matt Adams homer in the sixth upped the Cardinals’ lead to three, making Zimmermann’s shot at his 20th win look very shaky. A spot of hope emerged when Miller was pulled after walking the leadoff batter in the seventh, but just like two nights ago, the Cardinals used multiple relievers to get out of the inning.

Miller’s final line was impressive: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 3 K in earning his 15th win of the year. Zimmermann was pulled to start the bottom of the eighth, and had a much less impressive game despite allowing fewer baserunners: 7 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K. He finishes the year with a 19-9 record and 3.25 ERA.

Craig Stammen tossed a perfect eighth, but Trevor Rosenthal did the same for the Cardinals in the ninth to lock down the save and end the Nats’ hopes. No Nat managed more than one hit, but each of the three players that walked (Span, Werth, and LaRoche) also had a hit.

The Nats kick off their final series of 2013 on Friday in Arizona. Stephen Strasburg (7-9, 3.02) will make his last start of the year, going up against Diamondbacks phenom Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.28).

Joe Drugan

About Joe Drugan

Joe is the Managing Editor of The Nats Blog and host of the Nats Talk On The Go podcast. He's been blogging about the Nationals since 2010 and with The Nats Blog since 2011.