If there is only positive that Washington Nationals fans can take away from Friday afternoon’s 16-10 rout by the St. Louis Cardinals, it is that Washington’s rotation had a chance to get really familiar with Cardinals’ hitting.
In particular, Jordan Zimmermann – who in just three innings pitched faced 19 batters.
The 26-year-old right-hander nearly pitched a 1-2-3 first – allowing only a single by Matt Carpenter before Allen Craig grounded into a double play.
In the second inning, Zimmermann gave up a leadoff walk to David Freese and Shane Robinson grounded safely to center to leave runners at first and second. Justin Christian chopped back to the mound, advancing Freese and Robinson and Rob Johnson’s grounder to first scored Freese to put the first of many runs on the board.
Ronny Cedeno’s single brought home Robinson, but from there the Cardinals failed to tack on runs.
That is, until the third inning.
Zimmermann faced five batters – and gave up two doubles, two singles and a walk – before getting the first out of the inning, a popup by Christian. At that point, only two additional runs scored.
Unfortunately for the Nationals, Johnson doubled in the next at-bat, scoring two, and Greg Garcia’s two-out single plated two more.
The Nats got a fire going in the bottom of the inning – sparked by a Wilson Ramos single and a walk to Chad Tracy off right-hander Shelby Miller. Ramos advanced to third on a wild pitch during Danny Espinosa’s at-bat and, with two outs, Bryce Harper tripled to bat in Ramos and Tracy.
Rafael Soriano came on to pitch a near-perfect fourth inning, allowing only one hit, but the luck simply did not carry to Nationals’ reliever Nathan Karns.
The fifth inning started off with a fielding error by Anthony Rendon and the Cardinals played small ball to score two runs off a single by Cedeno before Karns could tally an out.
A Matt Carpenter one-out single loaded the bases for Xavier Scruggs, who struck out swinging, before Karns allowed a walk to Cody Stanley, which plated Cedeno.
In the next at-bat, Robinson rocketed a two-out grand slam to left field allowing the Cardinals to officially notch seven runs before the inning was over.
With all the pressure gone, Cole Kimball, Henry Rodriguez and Tyler Clippard combined for 2.1 innings of no-hit baseball. In that time, the Nats posted one run in both the sixth and eighth innings.
In the ninth inning, however, it was Washington’s turn to parade around the base paths.
Micah Owings led off with a solo shot off 24-year-old right-hander Keith Butler. Jhonaton Solano singled and Rendon was hit by a pitch before Steve Lombardozzi hit an RBI single.
The Nationals looked as though they were about to pull off a near-impossible two-out rally when Matt Skole singled to knock in both Rendon and Lombardozzi. Chris Marrero then doubled to score Skole and Zach Walters hit a two-run shot to put the Nationals… within six.
When all was said and done, the Nats were too far back to have a shot at catching the Cardinals, but, at the very least, all can be grateful for a solid performance by the middle relief and a clutch two-out performance by some of the youngest roster substitutes.