A day after the Bryce Harper hustle frenzy, the Washington Nationals created the right kind of drama Sunday afternoon by way of a Denard Span walk-off sacrifice fly to top the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2.
Stephen Strasburg (ND, 1-2) delivered with a solid enough outing to keep the Nats on the Cardinals’ tails. In fact, he allowed just one run until the fifth inning when, on two outs, he walked Peter Bourjos and allowed an RBI double to Shelby Miller to put St. Louis up 2-0.
The Nats pulled Strasburg after six to pinch-hit Zach Walters with two runners on. The strategy produced no runs for Washington, and it sent Strasburg back to the bench with no possibility of a win.
Through 5.1 innings pitched, St. Louis starter Shelby Miller never provided the Nats with an opportunity. Miller tossed 57 of 99 pitches for strikes, allowing no runs on four hits and five walks, while accruing seven strikeouts.
In the seventh, however, the Nats showed signs of life. With one out, Adam LaRoche and Anthony Rendon hit back-to-back singles off reliever Carlos Martinez. LaRoche came home on a hard-hit single by Ian Desmond, and Rendon scored on a single by Danny Espinosa that tied the game 2-2.
Craig Stammen, Jerry Blevins and Rafael Soriano pitched a combined three innings of scoreless baseball in relief, setting the Nationals up for a dramatic ninth inning comeback.
The inning lacked the pomp and circumstance of a one-swing walk off, but at this point in the season, that Nats should take a split with the Cardinals in any possible fashion. With one out, Espinosa and Jose Lobaton singled back-to-back before pinch-hitter Nate McLouth drew a walk to load the bases with Seth Maness on the mound.
After working through six pitches to earn a 2-2 count, Denard Span swung at a 83 MPH changeup to fly deep enough to right to allow Espinosa to score the game-winning run.
With the victory, the Nats take 2-of-4 against the Cardinals. Rafael Soriano earned the Curly W – his first of the season.