Sep 24, 2013, 4:28 PM EDT
ST. LOUIS — It’s been awhile since the Nationals played a truly meaningless baseball game, almost exactly two years, to be precise. So the next five days represent unusual territory for a club that used to be in this situation every September but is surprised to be here now.
Davey Johnson insisted last night the Nats would continue to “put our best foot forward,” the rest of the way, especially against a Cardinals club that still is trying to clinch the NL Central title over the Pirates and Reds. And the departing manager is staying true to his word: Davey is fielding his regular lineup tonight against right-hander Michael Wacha.
Gio Gonzalez gets the ball, looking to continue to close out his season on a high note. The lefty is 4-1 with a 1.87 ERA over his last five starts, though all came against the Marlins, Mets and Phillies. He’ll face a much tougher challenge tonight in St. Louis.
Upates to come, so please check back…
WASHINGTON NATIONALS at ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Where: Busch Stadium
Gametime: 8:15 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 187
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 73 degrees, Wind 6 mph in from RF
CF Denard Span
3B Ryan Zimmerman
RF Jayson Werth
LF Bryce Harper
SS Ian Desmond
1B Adam LaRoche
C Wilson Ramos
2B Anthony Rendon
LHP Gio Gonzalez
2B Matt Carpenter
LF Shane Robinson
RF Carlos Beltran
1B Matt Adams
C Yadier Molina
3B David Freese
CF Jon Jay
SS Pete Kozma
RHP Michael Wacha
HP Paul Schreiber
1B Jeff Kellogg (cc)
2B Eric Cooper
3B Chad Fairchild
8:17 p.m. — We are underway as Michael Wacha fires strike one to Denard Span.
8:20 p.m. — And Wacha makes quick work of the Nats in the top of the first. Span grounded out to short, Ryan Zimmerman struck out on a sinker down and in, Jayson Werth grounded out to third. Gio Gonzalez takes the mound for the bottom of the first, his first appearance at Busch Stadium since his erratic start in Game 1 of the NLDS.
8:29 p.m. — A scoreless bottom of the first for Gio, who did give up a two-out double off the wall to Carlos Beltran. He also got some help from Bryce Harper, who made a headfirst slide in the torn-up left field to catch Shane Robinson’s line drive … and also pick up the first down at the 20-yard line. Scoreless after one.
8:42 p.m. — Good pitchers’ duel developing here. Wacha has retired all six batters he’s faced. Gio has retired six of the seven he’s faced, getting a couple of grounders to short and a strikeout in the bottom of the second. Still 0-0 here.
8:47 p.m. — Make it 9 up and 9 down for Wacha, who is cruising. He has five strikeouts and has allowed only one ball to leave the infield.
8:59 p.m. — Gio got two quick strikeouts to open the bottom of the third, but then Matt Carpenter roped a drive to deep left-center. Harper tried to get there but couldn’t quite haul in the fade pass to the corner of the end zone, so Carpenter cruised in with his 55th(!) double of the season. Moments later, Shane Robinson sent a single up the middle, bringing home Carpenter and putting the Nats in a 1-0 hole after three.
9:04 p.m. — Make it 12 up and 12 down for Wacha, who has barely broken a sweat to this point.
9:16 p.m. — The Cardinals get another run off Gio in the fourth, thanks to an RBI double by Molina. The Nats outfield seemed to be playing surprisingly shallow there, and so neither Span nor Werth could cut the ball off before it rolled to the fence. That allowed Adams to score first and give St. Louis a 2-0 lead after four.
9:38 p.m. — We’re through the top of the sixth now, and Wacha still hasn’t allowed a hit. LaRoche did reach on an error by Carpenter on a sharp grounder through his legs. But that’s the Nats’ only baserunner so far.
9:50 p.m. — Seven innings for Wacha, whose no-hitter remains intact. Zimmerman did draw a leadoff walk in the seventh, but that was it. Wacha has thrown only 85 pitches and is showing no signs of let-up. It’s still a 2-0 game at the stretch.
10:02 p.m. — Nothing to complain about Gio Gonzalez tonight. He tossed seven innings of 2-run ball. But that’s not the storyline. Michael Wacha is. He takes the mound for the eighth, his no-hitter intact and the Cardinals leading 2-0.
10:08 p.m. — Just when it looked like Wacha was in trouble (he walked LaRoche, then fell behind 2-0 to Ramos) he got Ramos to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. Rendon then sent a line drive to left, but Robinson made a running catch. The Busch Stadium crowd is fired up now as Wacha has a no-hitter through eight innings.
10:15 p.m. — Here we go. The crowd gives Wacha a standing ovation as he takes the mound for the ninth. It’ll be a pinch-hitter, Span and Zimmerman for the Nats, still down 2-0.
10:27 p.m. — Wacha came oh-so-close, but with two outs in the ninth, Zimmerman barely beat out a chopper to short, just eluding Adams’ tag. The Nats still lose 2-0, but they aren’t no-hit.
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.
Follow us on Twitter
- Matt Williams quotes Robert Frost in postgame speech (VIDEO)
- VIDEO: Nats celebrate NL East title with loud music, lots of beer
- Nationals players react to winning NL East on Twitter
- PHOTOS: Harper wears custom firefighters helmet to celebrate
- Nationals clinch NL East with victory in Atlanta
- How did Zimmerman fare in first game action in Viera?
- Nationals play for NL East title tonight in Atlanta
- Has Strasburg earned Game 1 start in playoffs?
- Around the NL East: Braves on the verge of elimination
- After nailbiter, Nationals on the cusp of a clinch