Sep 24, 2013, 10:38 PM EDT
Game in a nutshell: With nothing left to play for but pride after getting eliminated Monday night, the Nationals still hoped to deal a blow to the Cardinals’ hopes of winning a division title, so Davey Johnson fielded his regular lineup tonight against Michael Wacha. It didn’t matter. Wacha was brilliant from the start, retiring 14 straight batters before Adam LaRoche reached on an error in the fifth. The 22-year-old rookie, drafted last summer out of Texas A&M, issued a walk in the seventh and another in the eighth, but he took the mound for the ninth with a no-hitter intact. And he came oh-so-close to pulling it off, getting within one out before Ryan Zimmerman barely beat out a chopper to short. The Nats may have avoided the ignominy of being no-hit for the first time in club history, but they did still suffer a 2-0 loss that helped St. Louis inch closer to the NL Central crown.
Hitting lowlight: It’s tough to find a highlight when you don’t get a single hit until two outs in the ninth, so we’ll focus instead on the guy who mowed down the Nationals lineup. Wacha was a highly touted prospect, drafted 19th overall last summer and placed on a fast track to the big leagues. This was only his 15th career appearance, his ninth start, but he looked every bit like a seasoned (and dominant) veteran. The 6-foot-6 right-hander barely broke a sweat and had the Nats lineup fooled all night. There weren’t really any close calls, either, only a couple of hard-hit line drives by Wilson Ramos and Anthony Rendon. Props, though, to Zimmerman, who motored down the line on his chopper just over the mound and just barely eluded Matt Adams’ swipe tag to record the Nationals’ lone hit of the night.
Pitching highlight: Gio Gonzalez certainly deserved a better fate, because he certainly pitched well enough to win. The lefty’s only real mistakes came in the third and fourth innings, in which he twice allowed a pair of hits to open the frames. Yadier Molina’s RBI double in the fourth was particularly frustrating, because it might have been cut off had Jayson Werth and Denard Span not been playing surprisingly shallow. Instead, the ball rolled to the wall, and that allowed Matt Adams to score a big run. Gonzalez buckled down after that and didn’t allow another run. On most nights, that would have been good enough. Not on this night, not with Wacha on the mound for the Cardinals.
Key stat: The last pitcher to throw a no-hitter against a Washington ballclub was Cleveland’s Sonny Siebert, who did it to the Senators on June 10, 1966.
Up next: The series wraps up with a Wednesday matinee at Busch Stadium. Jordan Zimmermann makes his final start of the season, seeking his league-leading 20th win. But he’ll face a stiff challenge in young right-hander Shelby Miller, trying to earn his 15th win.
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