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Never in the Cards

Sep 25, 2013, 6:45 PM EST

Associated Press Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — The greatest moment in the brief history of the Washington Nationals came at the expense of the St. Louis Cardinals. Jayson Werth’s walk-off homer in Game 4 of last fall’s NLDS kept his team’s season alive and undoubtedly turned thousands of D.C. area residents into baseball fans for good.

Every opportunity the Nationals have had to play against the Cardinals since that glorious night, though, has resulted in misery. Obviously, nothing can compare to the sting of their Game 5 meltdown 24 hours after Werth launched his homer into the October darkness. But the ensuing six matchups between these two clubs this year proved miserable in their own right.

The final blow came Wednesday afternoon during a lackluster, 4-1 loss at Busch Stadium. It sent the Nationals out of town with an 0-6 record against St. Louis in 2013, six games in which they scored a total of eight runs.

The Cardinals need only win once more to clinch the NL Central title. The Nationals need not make any plans beyond Sunday’s season finale in Arizona.

“I tell ya, they just kicked our butt in just about every aspect of the game,” Davey Johnson said. “I tip my hat to them.”

St. Louis’ 3-game sweep in D.C. way back in April could be shrugged off to early season woes, but the Nationals arrived here on Monday still mathematically alive for a playoff berth and owner of baseball’s best record over the previous six weeks. They both wanted — and expected — to play well.

“These guys knocked us out of the playoffs, and they’re in a pennant race and we’re 0-5 against them this year?” Johnson said before the series finale. “I’m putting my best foot forward. We need to send a message back over there that they can’t just walk over us.”

The Cardinals then proceeded to stomp on the Nationals one final time, plating four runs off Jordan Zimmermann and riding six effective innings from Shelby Miller and three more from their bullpen to walk away with a convincing victory.

This was nothing new for the Nationals, and it was nothing new for Zimmerman, who despite mountains of success against every other franchise in the majors continues to be baffled by this one. He has now made seven starts in his career against St. Louis (including Game 2 of the NLDS) and now sports an 0-4 record and 8.83 ERA.

“They’re good 1-through-9,” the right-hander said. “Every one of those guys is hitting over .270-.280. Everyone’s dangerous. You can’t make any mistakes. … I don’t know really what their gameplan is, but they obviously see me pretty well.”

Wednesday’s offensive onslaught by the Cardinals prevented Zimmermann from becoming a 20-game winner for the first time in his career, but it didn’t spoil an otherwise fantastic season for the 27-year-old. Building off his success from the previous two seasons, Zimmermann wound up 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA. More important in his mind: He pitched a career-high 213 1/3 innings and didn’t miss a start along the way, in spite of a lingering neck strain that hampered him in midseason.

“Over 200 innings and a pretty low ERA, so I’m happy with the way the season went,” he said. “I wish I wouldn’t have had the little neck problem, but that’s gone now and I feel good. I wish I could keep pitching. I guess I’ll be ready to go in spring training.”

“He’s a horse,” Jayson Werth said. “He’s probably our No. 1 guy on the staff. He pitched great for us all year. I’m looking forward to having him in our rotation for a long time.”

Zimmermann benefited from more run support than other members of the Nationals’ staff received, but he still could have wound up with more wins had his lineup produced just a few more key hits. In seven of his 31 starts, the Nats were held to zero or one run.

They were held to those totals in each of the last two games of this series, nearly no-hit by rookie Michael Wacha on Tuesday before being limited to one early run off Miller on Wednesday. Those two performances came after the Nationals were officially eliminated from the playoff race Monday night, a development players now admit had a carryover effect.

“After that first night, I think all bets were off,” Werth said. “That one stung a little bit. We were pretty flat yesterday, and we weren’t much better today.”

“All I can say is, I think it took a lot out of us on Monday, when we lost,” Denard Span said. “The last six weeks, we’ve been climbing, scratching, playing good baseball, trying to get back into this thing. And I think once it hit us that it was over, I think it took a lot out of us. Still no excuse. We’re still professionals. We’ve still got to finish the season off as best as possible.”

They’ll attempt to do that this weekend in Arizona, with three games left to play against the also-eliminated Diamondbacks. At best, they could finish the season with 87 wins. At worst, they would be held to 84.

Johnson hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll continue to play all of his veterans or give younger players a look. That dilemma was of less concern to him Wednesday than the fact his team had just been swept again by a Cardinals club that has owned this matchup since the moment after Werth touched the plate on that memorable night last October.

“That hurts a little bit, because I wanted to beat them bad,” Johnson said. “I’ll leave it up for grabs in Arizona. If the guys have had enough, I’ll go with some rookies. But this is the series we had to show them we’re the Washington Nationals, we’re a hell of a ballclub.”

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:05 PM

    ‘Never in the Cards’ is right. Not if you average 1.33 runs/game while in St. Louis, after having averaged — guess what? — 1.33 against them in Washington in April. Yes, the Cardinals have good pitching, but they give up an average of 3.75 runs/game. In six games, Nats only got 3 runs once. 2, 2, 1, 0 and 0 represented the Nats’ production in the other five games. Another ‘deja vu all over again’ series.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:07 PM

      Having written that, let’s hope that get at least one or two wins against the Diamondbacks. Go Nats!

    • Doc - Sep 25, 2013 at 8:44 PM

      Rick Shu just hasn’t been on his game, the last few with the Cards.

      Only 3 runs scored in 3 games.Probably time for Rizzon to look for another hitting coach.

  2. David Proctor - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:07 PM

    What is the timetable typically like in regards to the new manager? I imagine that’s something Rizzo will want to get done somewhat soon after the season is over.

    • Jw - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:33 PM

      Davey is saying Rizzo may take a while to decide on a guy. Realistically, it has to be done before the Winter Meetings in early December.

  3. David Proctor - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:17 PM

    The Braves and Brewers are brawling. Gomez pimped his home run BIG TIME and he and Maholm were jawing back and forth as he rounded the bases. I’m not sure what the history is, but it’s going down big time.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:28 PM

      Wouldn’t you love to see a few of the Braves’ enforcers get suspended for a the first game or two of the playoffs?

      • David Proctor - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:29 PM

        Yep. Freeman just got ejected for trying to throw a punch at Gomez. McCann blocked Gomez path to the plate and then all hell broke loose.

  4. NatsLady - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:42 PM

    Didn’t see it because I was working, but sheesh, why is a Division winning team scrapping with a bottom feeder? That is just going to get someone hurt (cf Greinke). Wait until they see the Dodgers, that team don’t take nuttin’ from nobody.

    • NatsLady - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:45 PM

      Why did Gomez leave the game? Was he ejected also?

      • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:47 PM

        And why wasn’t Brian McCann ejected? He blocked home plate and wouldn’t let the runner touch it. And Reed Johnson threw a punch? Make ’em forfeit, let St. Louis earn home-field advantage for the NL playoffs.

  5. natsfan1a - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    According to MLB Network, Gomez was also ejected.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:58 PM

      i only see freeman’s name among ejected, not gomez on gameday.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 25, 2013 at 8:25 PM

        I was wrong. Gomez and Laird were ejected. Reed should be gone too, along with rest of 100 fans in the stadium.

  6. Faraz Shaikh - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    Braves did win the division, right? You cannot tell by looking at their stadium.

    And they need to turn down their MLB police attitude.

  7. Baseballswami - Sep 25, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    Barves are insufferable, especially McCann. They did not say one word when their rookie pitcher cursed out an ump. Disrespect? They pull this crap every series and it is old and tired. They need some suspensions. My silver lining from this series is that it might give STL home field vs ATL. I will root for anyone who will put them in their place. I think Gomez purposely baited them. They overreacted right on cue.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 25, 2013 at 8:06 PM

      And I saw on Twitter — okay, not an absolutely reliable source — that Carlos Gomez was jawing at the Braves pitcher because that pitcher had plunked him earlier in the season.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Sep 25, 2013 at 8:27 PM

        In MLB video, you can hear McCann right after the HR saying, “f****** run god******” to Gomez.

      • Eric - Sep 26, 2013 at 12:06 AM

        Just amazing. I hate bullies. I wanna see them utterly routed in the post season, losing their cool in embarrassing, ejection-inducing fashion, and for some strange reason I want it to come at the hand of the Cards.

      • Eric - Sep 26, 2013 at 12:16 AM

        PS – the end of the MLB video of the episode shows footage of Maholm plunking Gomez in the past.

  8. Baseballswami - Sep 25, 2013 at 8:08 PM

    I think every team has an issue with them now– with good reason– and they are baiting the Barves and dishing it right back.

  9. David Proctor - Sep 25, 2013 at 8:27 PM

    If I’m facing the Braves in the playoffs, I pimp a home run big time. Let them hang themselves. Get themselves ejected. They’re clearly easy to rattle.

  10. Baseballswami - Sep 25, 2013 at 8:35 PM

    I was thinking the same thing– bait them like crazy, let them overreact, then stand back and watch them go wacky and get ejected. They need suspensions or they won ‘t stop.

  11. David Proctor - Sep 25, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    We better shut that team up and put them in their place next year. I hate them now more than I ever hated the Phillies–and I used to have a serious hate for the Phillies (and still do to an extent). I’ve never seen a team filled with such pompous, jackas**s.

  12. Faraz Shaikh - Sep 25, 2013 at 9:15 PM

    I was just looking at some stats.

    Nationals have let opponents score 10 or more eight times this season. Haren was involved in four of those games (giving up 6,7,7,5 ERs). Zimm and Gonzalez were involved in other two. They won once out of those eight games, 11-10 win over Royals. Last season, we had 7 such games but we scored 11 once (won), 10 twice (lost) and 9 once (lost). Just reinforcing the point that offense was really bad this season.

    Blowouts(5+ run difference): Nats were 21-11 in 2012 and 21-18 in 2013.
    One run games: 27-21 in 2012 (2-4 against Braves) and 28-23 in 2013 (3-6 against Braves). It seems like offense and maybe bullpen was the difference as far as Braves games are concerned.

    here is something more surprising (not sure if this has been shared before):
    Nats’ record in EJ games: 12-19
    Nats’ record in DH games: 11-19

    Nats’ record in RD games in 2012: 19-14
    Nats’ record in RD games in 2013: 5-8, TJ games in 2013: 4-5, TR games in 2013: 3-1, RO games in 2013: 6-1. All this equals 18-15

    Again it seems our depth did OK in RD’s absence and DH was not as bad a replacement as I thought. Yes, the actual numbers are pretty bad but overall we are getting similar results as far as W-L are concerned. Major discrepancies come with Strasburg and Gonzalez’ numbers.

    Nats’ record in SS games in 2012: 19-9
    in 2013: 13-16

    Nats’ record in GG games in 2012: 24-8
    in 2013: 19-13

    Nats’ record in JZ games in 2012: 21-11
    in 2013: 22-9

    Again if you look at their numbers, everything tells you just one thing: our offense sucked this season.

  13. Joe Seamhead - Sep 25, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    David Proctor, personally I had a huge vendetta against Phillie fans much more than against the players. The Braves? I seriously wish a curse on their hemaroids, from Frank Wren to the bat boys, and to every fan that does that ignorant chop.

    • nats128 - Sep 25, 2013 at 9:23 PM

      +1 what a bunch of “fake tough” guys.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 25, 2013 at 11:20 PM

      “Hating the Braves Since 1982…”

  14. Baseballswami - Sep 25, 2013 at 9:23 PM

    Glad I am not the only one doing the slow burn. From the trash on the field to the pelting of Bryce- classless. Yes, the Cards beat us up, but fairly, and they are a good baseball city with good fans. ATL is just awful. They are cultivating many enemies and those things come back on you.

  15. David Proctor - Sep 25, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    The Braves just lost 2/3 to the Brewers. Kyle Lohse just pitched a 2 hit shutout against them. They don’t stand a chance in the postseason against good pitching staffs.

  16. naterialguy - Sep 25, 2013 at 10:59 PM

    rooting against the braves will be very enjoyable and, I hope, satisfying


    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 25, 2013 at 11:21 PM

      Rooting against the Braves is its own reward. But it’s an existential reality for some of us, even when it isn’t rewarding.

  17. natsfan1a - Sep 26, 2013 at 7:54 AM

    Me, I could happily (AFLAC?) root against either the Braves or the Cardinals in the playoffs. That said, I do believe my head would explode if I tried to do that during a head-to-head game between the two. Thus, I probably would not watch that series. But that’s just me.

  18. natsfan1a - Sep 26, 2013 at 7:55 AM

    Not that don’t think the Braves and their mall cop routine are tired, mind you. It’s just that, you know, I like my head and find it rather useful.





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