Sep 23, 2013, 11:01 PM EDT
Game in a nutshell: The Nationals arrived in St. Louis knowing they could face elimination if results played out a certain way here, in Cincinnati and in Chicago. All three games went down to the wire, but when the Pirates and Reds each won in dramatic fashion, the Nats knew they had to win to keep their season alive. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first but then went silent against Adam Wainwright. Tanner Roark tried to hold the lead, but the rookie struggled with St. Louis’ grind-it-out lineup and wound up giving up four runs to leave himself in line for his first career loss. The Nationals couldn’t mount one final rally against the St. Louis bullpen, and so a season that began with so much promise officially ended in disappointment. There will be no postseason for the Nationals in 2013, only a long winter to contemplate what exactly went wrong.
Hitting lowlight: The Nats looked like they were going to get to Wainwright early when Jayson Werth tagged a two-run homer in the top of the first. But the veteran right-hander has a track record for first-inning struggles and then righting his ship, and he did it again tonight. The Nats managed only three baserunners from the second through the seventh innings. They finally knocked Wainwright out in the eighth and pushed across one more run, but Werth couldn’t drive the tying run home from second with two outs in the eighth.
Pitching lowlight: Though he has impressed far beyond what anyone expected, Roark does remain a rookie who is still learning how to get big-league hitters out. And he faced a particularly tough lineup tonight in the Cardinals, finding that out the hard way. Roark didn’t surrender many hard-hit balls, but he did give up nine hits over five innings, several of them to the opposite field. His biggest mistake was a 3-1 fastball to Carlos Beltran, who hammered it to right field for a two-run homer. Thus, Roark suffered his first big-league loss in what was probably his final start of the season. Davey Johnson indicated he’s likely to start Gio Gonzalez in Sunday’s finale at Arizona.
Key stat: The Nationals haven’t beaten the Cardinals since Game 4 of last year’s NLDS.
Up next: The series continues at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday when lefty Gio Gonzalez faces right-hander Michael Wacha.
NL EAST STANDINGS
x-Clinched division title
WED: Nats at Braves, 7:10 p.m.
THU: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
FRI: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SAT: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
SUN: Nats at Marlins, 1:10 p.m.
TUE: Mets at Nats 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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