October 18, 2018

Washington Nationals Game 130 Review: Dark Night in St. Louis

NATIONALS BLOW TWO LEADS, DROP OPENER TO CARDS 8-5

If there was a game as badly mismanaged as this one anywhere else in the majors, it would’ve cost the losing manager their job.

Sadly, no such luck on Monday night in St. Louis.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ Pat Matheny managed just ever so slightly better than Matt Williams, and the Cardinals’ triumphed 8-5 after nine painful innings of baseball every Nationals fan cringed through.

Coupled with the New York Mets win over Philadelphia, the Nats fell to 6 1/2 games back in the division with 32 games to play.

The Nationals leapt out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning, getting to John Lackey early. With two outs, Bryce Harper hit a weak bouncer to Cardinals’ second baseman Kolten Wong, who couldn’t come up with the ball, dropping it twice before he could get a good hand on it. Ryan Zimmerman laced a double down the right field line into the corner, and Harper turned up his speed to 11 to score just ahead of the relay from Matt Reynolds at first. Though Yadier Molina made an excellent sweep tag, he was ahead of Harper’s momentum, allowing him to get a hand on the plate ahead of the tag.

Gio Gonzalez pitched a strong first three frames, but it came apart for the crafty lefty in the fourth inning. The Cardinals were incredibly effective at locating their hits, getting a walk, followed by four singles, none long enough to rate two bases, but always effective at moving the runners from first to third, and then home. They built up a 3-1 lead in just five batters.

The Nationals rallied in the seventh, getting a pair of walks off reliever Ken Siegrist. At two different points, it looked as if the Cardinals would go to their bullpen, first with Bryce Harper coming to the plate (walk), and then when Ryan Zimmerman came to bat. But no call to the bullpen was made, and the Nationals made them pay. Zimmerman crushed a ball to the grass in the batters’ eye to give the Nationals a 5-3 lead. Zimmerman has been one of the brighter spots for the Nationals since returning from injury, and he’s doing his best to bring this team to respectability.

The lead was short-lived.

With Gio Gonzalez done after six, Casey Janssen took over duties. It did not go well. Two singles right off the bat put Janssen in deep trouble. Though he got a double play ball from Greg Garcia, the lead runner advanced to third. Janssen issued a pass to Matt Carpenter on four pitches. That’s probably where Matt Williams should’ve gotten Janssen out of there.

He didn’t.

Back-to-back singles from Stephen Piscotty and Jhonny Peralta tied the game at five and sent Janssen to the showers in favor of Felipe Rivero. Jason Heyward raked a double over the head of Jayson Werth to make it 7-5, and Kolten Wong added insult to injury, singling in Heyward to complete the coup de grace and break the spine of the Nationals — and spirit of Nats fans.

The Nationals threatened in the ninth inning, getting the tying run to the plate in the personage of Bryce Harper. Trevor Rosenthal, fresh off the paternity list (congratulations Trevor) threw a pitch right through Molina to the backstop, but Rendon got caught too far to second as Werth decided not to go, and got run down for the first out.

Harper walked to keep things going, but Ryan Zimmerman popped out and Clint Robinson struck out to end the threat and the game.

HERO: Ryan Zimmerman, who crushed a go-ahead homer in a crucial high leverage situation. Face of the franchise indeed.

GOAT: Casey Janssen is bad, and he should feel bad. Four runs in the seventh ended the Nationals’ night effectively. That was about as bad an outing as he’s had this year, and he’s had some stinkers.

NEXT UP: The suffering continues tomorrow night at 8:15. Joe Ross (5-5, 3.24) vs. Marco Gonzalez (first appearance of the season; 1-4, 5.20 in 13 starts for AAA-Memphis).

About Tom Bridge

Tom Bridge is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Nationals. Tom has been in love with baseball since he was 10. He is a founding editor of We Love DC, where he covered the Nationals and Capitals as a credentialed writer for four seasons. He grew up as an Oakland Athletics fan in the Central Valley in California, where he learned to appreciate Bill King, Mark McGwire and even Tony LaRussa. By day, he is a partner at Technolutionary LLC, where he handles IT operations. He cannot abide the Cardinals. You can follow Tom on Twitter @TomBridgeDSP.

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