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Game 158: Nats at Cardinals

Sep 24, 2013, 4:28 PM EST

Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER

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

NATIONALS (84-73)
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

CARDINALS (92-65)
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

UMPIRES
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.

  1. tcostant - Sep 24, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    I miss baseball already :(

  2. natsfan1a - Sep 24, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    I won’t be watching in real time due to the later start time, as usual, but will be recording it. I do hope to watch tomorrow’s game in real time.

    Go, GIO! Go, NATS!!

  3. David Proctor - Sep 24, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    I hope Gio pitches better than the last time he pitched at this stadium. Walks. Walks everywhere.

  4. langleyclub - Sep 24, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    Like that Davey is trying to win these games, particularly against the Cardinals, but to do that I would start Tyler Moore over LaRoche. LaRoche killed the Nats last night, and has been the most disappointing position player on the Nats this season.

  5. David Proctor - Sep 24, 2013 at 4:52 PM

    Did any of you read that garbage article by Feinstein in the Washington Post that blamed the Strasburg shutdown for this year’s struggles?

    • Candide - Sep 24, 2013 at 5:00 PM

      No. We figured you would do it for us, so we wouldn’t have to.

      With our sincere gratitude. :-D

    • Dave - Sep 24, 2013 at 7:27 PM

      Yes. It was a perfect example of reductio ad absurdum. He seemed to boil all the idiotic anti-shutdown arguments into one neat package of stupidity. One might almost think it was an exercise in self-parody if Feinstein hadn’t made those same empty arguments elsewhere and at other times.

      • Dave - Sep 24, 2013 at 7:28 PM

        No, actually it wasn’t reductio ad absurdum. It was just absurd. Anyway, it was stooopid. That’s what I meant to say.

  6. Baseballswami - Sep 24, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    Mark, I love you, but everyone go right now and read Kilgore’s rebuttal to Feinstein’s garbage. It’s a thing of beauty.

    • Candide - Sep 24, 2013 at 5:08 PM

      I did read that (it’s here, BTW). If Kilgore is quoting Feinstein accurately, it would appear that, with the exception of Kilgore, the Washington Post’s baseball coverage has gone downhill since the day Chico Harlan happily abandoned his job as the Nats’ beat reporter to move to the foreign desk.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 24, 2013 at 6:04 PM

        I read a similar rebuttal — but not the original article — on NBCSports.com (via a Twitter link); it also pointed out the failures in Mr. Feinstein’s logic. To quote the final paragraph:

        I feel like Feinstein has been waiting for a long time to say “ah-ha!” to Rizzo about the Strasburg decision. And that he does today, regardless of the baseball facts which relate to the Nationals this year. But hey, narrative-driven analysis about curses and karma are the stuff of highly-paid columns and book deals, not baseball facts.

        The NBCSports column is here (if I do this right): http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/09/24/no-the-strasburg-shutdown-in-2012-is-not-why-the-nats-missed-the-playoffs-in-2013/related/

        For what it’s worth, I enjoyed a couple of Mr. Feinstein’s books on golf.

    • Hiram Hover - Sep 24, 2013 at 6:17 PM

      I’m not that crazy about Feinstein anyway and read that piece to confirm my bias, but wow – that is a stunning piece of stupid.

  7. Candide - Sep 24, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    Really. Did Davey catch TyMo in bed with his wife? I thought Davey was supposed to be the greatest developer of young players since baseball was invented.

  8. Candide - Sep 24, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    Won’t catch tonight’s game, as we’re going out to dinner with a NJ BoSox fan friend who’s in town. He’s a nice guy, so Cunegonde and I will only beat him half to death.

    And we’ll wait until he’s had his dessert.

  9. Baseballswami - Sep 24, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    Candide– agree!!!!!! One of those famous blind spots. ALR is Davey’s boy. Remember when Davey said he did not want some youngster on his bench? When Tyler plays regularly he gets two hits a game and does not hurt us on defense. Made a fantastic stretch on Sunday. Nats need to decide he is a piece for the future or trade him. A wasted resource.

  10. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 24, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    I will be half watching the game; need to finalize my syllabus since classes start next week (they have strange academic calendars in the Pacific Northwest, let me tell you). In any event, I’m also happy to see the Nats playing the regular line-up against the Cardinals. With the NL Central Division so close, I think they owe it to game to put their best team on the field. But, like others, I’d like to see Tyler Moore at 1B and I hope that the Nats are liberal in substituting in some of the younger players (and giving anyone with nagging injuries a rest). No need to lose someone for the first half of next season in a (relatively) meaningless game today.

  11. David Proctor - Sep 24, 2013 at 6:49 PM

    I was just looking at our schedule. Our division games are very heavily titled at the beginning and end of the year. Our first 15 games are all in the division and our last 23 games are all in the division.

    • David Proctor - Sep 24, 2013 at 6:50 PM

      For next year, of course.

  12. philipd763 - Sep 24, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    Davey doesn’t care about development of the younger players, even in a meaningless game, because he’s leaving. He cares about victories to pad his managerial won loss record before he departs. He will go to his grave playing Laroche.

    • David Proctor - Sep 24, 2013 at 7:34 PM

      That’s completely unfounded.

      • slidell2 - Sep 24, 2013 at 8:54 PM

        A lot of what Phillip says may be unfounded, but I do wish he would play Tyler the rest of the way and let Adam rest his weary bones.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 24, 2013 at 7:58 PM

      seriously? WOW! you really think players “develop” in five games?

  13. Joe Seamhead - Sep 24, 2013 at 8:10 PM

    Wow, that was a stretch. ‘Nuff said.

  14. David Proctor - Sep 24, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    Listening to this pregame interview with Davey, I could listen to him to talk baseball for hours.

  15. janebeard - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:01 PM

    David, me too. Turns out, I’ll really miss Davey.

    I hope we get this run back. I do not want these Cards to clinch on our time.

  16. David Proctor - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:04 PM

    It’s going to be one of those games isn’t it

    • Hiram Hover - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:33 PM

      One of those games, yes. But at least not a perfect game for Wacha. His own defense spoiled that, anyway.

  17. Baseballswami - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    Anyone else finding this truly depressing and something we feared many times before this season? But I thought that part was over and we had turned the page, and the end of the season was going out on a better note. Please get a hit, please. Not at Busch, please. He is a rookie- no.

  18. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:44 PM

    I’m in and out of the game tonight. Are the Nats really being no-hit by this Cardinals rookie?

    • Hiram Hover - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:46 PM

      Yes. Davey’s strategy of playing his regulars is paying off!

      • Hiram Hover - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:48 PM

        A walk! The floodgates are opening!

  19. paul brandt - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:49 PM

    Eugene, yes they are…

    and like many others here, not playing Moore instead of ALR is just awful…play some young guys to see how they do…could care less if its only 5 games! our regular 1B, ALR is just not good anymore.

    heck, playing him could be interpreted as throwing in the towel…would love to see him prove me wrong.

  20. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    Well, that was impressive (even with the walk).

  21. David Proctor - Sep 24, 2013 at 9:57 PM

    I think we can put those talks of Ryan to 1B to bed for now.

    • paul brandt - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:01 PM

      DP, agree with you but IF the 1B “production” is the same as next year, many will be calling for changes and that is a logical one.

  22. David Proctor - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:01 PM

    I bet we’re being no hit because of the Strasburg shutdown.

    Sorry, just channeling my inner Feinstein.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:11 PM

      Either that of the lack of respect [fill in the blank] showed the [fill in the blank]. Oh, wait. In that case they wouldn’t no-hit you, they’d just plunk you. Never mind.

  23. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    So, a Nats pitcher gives up 2 runs in 7 innings — better than a ‘quality’ start — and is still behind by 2 runs. Where have I seen this movie before?

  24. paul brandt - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    pinch run for ALR please!!!!

  25. paul brandt - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    so looks like we are going to be no-hit, what a nice way to cap off the year…

    • David Proctor - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:11 PM

      It would be pretty fitting. A lot of people said that it was bound to happen sometime this year.

      • paul brandt - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:14 PM

        yep, heard that many times myself…I really hope it doesn’t happen…small victories.

  26. snerdblurter - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:16 PM

    I love this team with all of my heart, but sometimes it seems like they have the emotional and mental constitution of a 14 year old girl.

    Please act like you belong among the elite teams and don’t turn Michael Wacha into the new Pete Kozma.

  27. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:16 PM

    Nats ever been in this situation (no hit going into the 9th) before?

    • NatsLady - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:25 PM

      No. Smoltz took a no-hitter to the 7th. That’s it before tonight.

  28. Hiram Hover - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    Shoot – I was really hoping to see Chad Tracy.

  29. Hiram Hover - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    Zim! Thank you!

  30. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:25 PM

    Wow. You’d have liked to have seen that be a cleaner hit.

  31. Joe Seamhead - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:25 PM

    I really don’t believe it! That’s pretty much as close as it gets?

  32. paul brandt - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:30 PM

    STL keeper will change it to an E tomorrow…watch.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:31 PM

      No. Doesn’t work that way when a no-hitter’s involved. Not least because they brought in the reliever.

      • Steady Eddie - Sep 24, 2013 at 11:22 PM

        Both valid and true points — but apart from them, error has to involve failure to make a play that could be made with “ordinary effort”. Sorry, Paul, but there was so little time to make that throw that if Pete f’in Kozma makes it on target, it’s a minor Web Gem.

        Ironic thing is that if Adams stays on the bag and tries to make the stretch, and the throw gets away, there’s a greater chance they might give an error. Should still be the same call though (but maybe simpler if Zim goes to second because that would have let them distinguish the hit from the error. Still ironic in that the difference would lie in Adams’ moving off the bag or not, not the throw.

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