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Instant analysis: Nats 3, Cardinals 1

Apr 18, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT

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GAME IN A NUTSHELL: On the heels of an atrocious performance Thursday night, Matt Williams challenged his players to return to the park Friday with renewed focus and desire. The Nationals responded in kind, delivering the kind of well-played ballgame Williams had been seeking all along.

Gio Gonzalez and Michael Wacha matched pitch-for-pitch, with Wacha allowing only Anthony Rendon’s solo homer in the third and Gonzalez allowing only one run in the fourth. The game remained tied 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh, when the Nationals threatened and then finally took advantage of some sloppy St. Louis mistakes, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs on a wild pitch and subsequent error (the Cardinals’ third of the game).

Up a couple of runs late, the Nationals did make things interesting. Tyler Clippard put two men on and needed a whopping 26 pitches to face only three batters (retiring the last). So Williams summoned Drew Storen to pitch out of the jam, and the right-hander delivered big-time by getting Matt Holliday and Allen Craig and stranding the tying runner in scoring position.

Rafael Soriano then finished things off in the ninth, securing a much-needed win for a Nationals club that had not beaten the Cardinals since Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS, losing eight straight in between.

HITTING HIGHLIGHT: Technically, there was no hit involved in the biggest offensive moment of the night for the Nationals. But who are we to nitpick? Singles by Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond got the rally started. Danny Espinosa then put down a sacrifice bunt, which Wacha and third baseman Matt Carpenter misplayed into an error, loading the bases. Nate McLouth struck out and Jose Lobaton tapped a weak grounder in front of the plate, leaving it all up to pinch-hitter Zach Walters. Walters, though, never had to take the bat off his shoulder. Wacha uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Desmond and then Yadier Molina’s wild throw to the plate allowed Espinosa to score as well and give the Nationals the lead.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: On a night when the Nationals surely needed a quality start, Gonzalez did even better than that. He was in control from start to finish, his only hiccup a stretch of three straight hits in the top of the fourth that brought home one run. After that, the lefty retired 11 in a row and finished with seven strikeouts to only one walk, all while keeping his pitch count manageable. If there were concerns about Gonzalez’s ability to come up big in a big game, he put those to rest with this performance.

KEY STAT: In the first 11 innings of his career facing the Nationals, Wacha allowed only two hits. Neither left the infield.

UP NEXT: Game 3 of this 4-game series features Jordan Zimmermann and Lance Lynn dueling on the mound. Denard Span is expected to come off the 7-day concussion DL and return to the Nationals’ lineup. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. on what should be a beautiful Saturday afternoon at the park.

  1. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:48 PM

    What an excellent game… Went by fast too…

    Desi and Espinosa scored on the WP/error… But good job Nats… Pitching was stellar outside of T Clippard…

    Just a great game…

  2. Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:49 PM

    Mark, don’t forget… Zero errors tonight… Well played ball game…

  3. Theophilus T.S. - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:52 PM

    Gonzalez’s most important win as a Nat. Storen’s most important “hold” as a reliever — if there can be such a thin. Soriano as clean as we could have ever hoped for. Team win.

    • senators5 - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:01 PM

      Agree with all comments, but can anyone ever remember Soriano going 1-2-3

      • David Proctor - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:07 PM

        He did literally his last outing.

      • hitmeimopen - Apr 19, 2014 at 9:54 AM

        Bingo! Do not like that guy.

  4. knoxvillenat - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    As far as I’m concerned Storen should get a save tonight I don’t care what the rules say.

    Big win over a very good baseball team. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we don’t have to like the Cardinals but we need to respect them and how they go about their business. If I was an owner of a team and could model my franchise off of any organization in baseball it would be the Cards.

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:02 PM

      Most definitely re: modeling a baseball team… I mean their plate approach dictates that it’s no let up in their line up… It was a vast and noticeable difference when they batted with RISP vs no one on…

      Just a good club… Who we finally beat…

      So glad that monkeys off our back… :-)

      • knoxvillenat - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:12 PM

        Mrsb,

        It’s not just their at bats, which are good, it’s how the whole organization is run from top to bottom. They don’t get the early draft picks but yet they scout and develop their players real well. They scout the majors for possible trades as well as any other team and it just seems that they have a “corporate culture”‘ to use a business phrase, that is well understood and well practiced throughout the whole organization, top to bottom.

        I’d much rather model them then say the two teams in NY or the two teams in the greater Los Angeles area.

    • topnat - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:13 PM

      As ken Beatrice would say “most games are lost not won.” If you play clean baseball and pressure the other to do the same even good teams will blink. Nice job Nats.

      • thelatencn - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:04 PM

        Ooh. Ken Beatrice sighting. Way to go, Topnat.

      • natsfan1a - Apr 19, 2014 at 11:40 AM

        As told to him by Casey Stengel? :-)

        “most games are lost not won.”

  5. 3on2out - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:02 PM

    Looked to me like Desi is dipping again. Looked like a big pinch between his cheek and gum when he was cheering Danny home. Anyone hear anything?

    • Mrsb loves the Nats - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:06 PM

      That’s unfortunate if that’s the case… But battling a habit is definitely hard… Hopefully he can kick it…

      • ArVAFan - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:13 PM

        I thought they had to chew only bubble gum on the field?

      • dgourds - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:16 PM

        That habit should be kicked in the off season. Too many errors kicking it in season!

    • Danny - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:17 PM

      Brutally honest opinion… Whatever makes him play better.

  6. coop202 - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:06 PM

    Rendon’s HR was a 2-out shot, not leadoff

  7. sunshinebobby - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:11 PM

    I’d give Drew a honorary save as well. About 18 months too late, but he finally solves the Cardinals.

    As somebody noted earlier, this is the 2014 Cardinals, not the 1927 Yankees. Heck, Pete Kozma (the devil incarnate) isn’t even on this team anymore. Good.

    • letswin3 - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:22 PM

      Yeah, Steady Eddie suggested earlier tonight that Drew probably exorcised a few demons out there tonight. And I agree. He’s back in the mix for the ’15 closer opening, but I’ll settle for late innings in ’14 … for now.

  8. letswin3 - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:24 PM

    As the MASN guys interviewed Gio after the game he still had his game face on and looked like he was ready for an ally fight. I like it.

  9. Sonny G 10 - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:35 PM

    Boys play a little better when they’ve had enough sleep, eh! That plus Matt getting in their grill. Terrific game to watch. I think I’ll watch the second showing on MASN. It’ll be more fun knowing we’re going to win.

  10. stoatva - Apr 18, 2014 at 10:44 PM

    Just back from the game, which was a whole lot more fun than last night. I have to say, though…that WP and error sure pulled Matt Williams’ chestnuts out of the fire. Allowing McLouth and Lobaton to bat with none out and the bases loaded was…dare I say it? A gutless move straight out of the Davey Johnson 2013 playbook.

    Flame away.

  11. Ghost of Steve M. - Apr 18, 2014 at 11:42 PM

    Much needed win. Against thin odds the Nats pulled it out based on a HR and a bunch of Cardinals miscues. If the Nats can follow it up with another W tomorrow then even better!

    A couple of negatives for the Nats like TClip just self-destructing again and Nate McLouth channeling Espi 2013. That swing was very long. I understand trying to drive it but you get to a 2 strike count and he has to shorten up. He’s failing in key at-bats.

  12. Another_Sam - Apr 19, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    Let’s not discount Clip’s contribution. In spite of putting two on he looked solid to me. MW made a shrewd mid-inning change. Dunno if Davy would have done that.

    • slidell2 - Apr 19, 2014 at 11:04 AM

      I agree. Clip was steady. They just kept fouling off the slider. I admired his ability to maintain his focus over that 12 pitch at-bat, I was concerned that,with the law of averages, that Clip would eventually groove one, but he didn’t.

  13. therealjohnc - Apr 19, 2014 at 9:19 AM

    Article edit: the game was already tied when Wacha threw the wild pitch; Desmond’s run was the go-ahead, the second was insurance.

    Also, the note that “if there were concerns about Gonzalez’s ability to come up big in a big game, he put those to rest” doesn’t understand an internet meme. Any data that supports the meme is valid, and any data that contradicts the meme is either invalid or simply forgotten.

    Great game for the Nats. I’ll take some credit for it since I wasn’t there; the team dropped to 0-3 when I attend a game with that stinker Thursday night, and is now 10-4 when I don’t attend. And we all know that correlation = causation, amirite?

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 72 53 --
ATLANTA 66 61 7.0
MIAMI 63 63 9.5
NEW YORK 60 68 13.5
PHILADELPHIA 56 71 17.0
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FRI: Giants at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Giants at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Giants at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
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