The Washington Nationals hung tough at a place that they often find tough to play in and defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 in game one of their NL Divisional Series. Washington fell behind 2-1 in the second inning before scoring two runs with two out in the top of the eighth to win.
In their first ever post season game the Nationals jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. Adam LaRoche singled to start off the inning. Catcher Kurt Suzuki, who has come up with big hits all season, put Washington on the board by singling in LaRoche with two out. After pitcher Gio Gonzalez walked, Jayson Werth grounded out to end the inning with the bases loaded.
Gonzalez lost his control in the bottom of the second. as he walked the bases full. A wild pitch scored Yadier Molina to tie the score. A Jon Jay sacrifice fly scored Daniel Descalso to give St. Louis their first lead. The Cardinals had scored two runs without getting a single hit.
The score remained 2-1 as Gonzalez was taken out for pinch hitter Roger Bernadina in the top of the sixth. The Nationals bullpen held St. Louis until Washington got a break which opened the door in the eighth.
Michael Morse led off the inning with a ground ball that Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma misplayed for an error. Morse advanced to third on a single to right by Ian Desmond. After Danny Espinosa laid down a bunt Desmond advanced to second with Morse holding at third. Suzuki struck out swinging and the Cardinals made a pitching change. Marc Rzepzcynski replaced Mitchell Boggs.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson countered by sending Tyler Moore to pinch hit. Moore fell behind in the count 1-2 before dropping a soft single into right center to score Morse and Desmond.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Cardinals put the tying run on third when Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman committed a throwing error. Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard proceeded to retire the next three batters ending the inning.
In the ninth Drew Storen closed out the Cardinals with a perfect performance.
Winning game one in St. Louis is huge for Washington. The Cardinals have owned the Nationals at Busch Stadium since 2006. Washington has only won one series there. If the Nationals were to have any chance of winning this five game series it was paramount that they win a game on the road.
The victory was also important in that it showed Washington they can come from behind to win. The bullpen held St. Louis scoreless for four innings and gave the offense a chance to take the lead. The bench came through as Moore’s RBI single was the difference. The Nationals were able to get the last six outs necessary to pin down victory.
Game two is Monday afternoon. Jordan Zimmerman will go for Washington against Jaime Garcia. Though nothing can be taken for granted, Washington should feel pretty confident knowing that the worst they will get in St. Louis is a split.
They can take control of the series with a win.