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Sloppy Defense Dooms the Cards as they Fall to the Nats

The Cards lose for the first time since August 6.

MLB: Washington Nationals at St. Louis Cardinals
Wong and DeJong cannot connect this time
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

If you read the headline, you know the outcome. I’m not prescient, so I didn’t know that when I began typing up this recap in real time....

Cardinals enter the night having won eight games in a row, including the first three of this four-game series against the Nationals. If the Cards win tonight, it will be the first four-game sweep of the Nationals since 1983—when they were still the Expos!

Roark comes in having won his last 4 starts. Weaver has had a few extra days of rest after cutting his finger earlier in the week. It should be a good one.

The Cardinals lineup:

The Nationals lineup:

In the top of the 1st, Washington scores 1 after a one-out single by Turner and a double by Harper. Rendon flies out to center and Soto flies out to left. Nationals lead 1-0.

In the bottom half of the 1st, the Cards are very aggressive and go down in order on six total pitches. Carpenter and Molina fly out to center, and O’Neill pops out to Zimmerman in foul territory.

In the top of the 2nd, the Nationals go down in order—Zimmerman on a strike out, Murphy on a ground out, and Wieters on a fly out to O’Neill who got the start in right field.

In the bottom of the 2nd, the Cards send up Ozuna, DeJong, and Wong—moved up to the 6th spot in the order tonight—but all ground out in succession.

The top of the third doesn’t go very well for Weaver. Roark, the pitcher, leads off with a single. Eaton pops out, but then Turner, Harper, and Rendon all single. The Cards make their first mound visit of the night, and Weaver responds by getting Soto to pop out and Zimmerman to fly out to strand the bases loaded. Nationals lead 2-0.

In the Cards’ half of the third, Bader leads off with a homer on a 2-1 slider. Garcia strikes out. Weaver grounds out. Carpenter walks on four pitches, but Molina lines out on a first-pitch inside fastball. Carpenter’s walk means he’s now reached base 34 games in a row. It’s the longest current streak in MLB, and the third-longest of the season. The Cards get on the board but trail 2-1.

The 4th inning opens innocently enough with Murphy lining out to center and Wieters grounding out to Carpenter. Then, however, the wheels come off. Weaver gives up a single to the pitcher. He walks Eaton. Then Turner reaches on a missed catch error by Carpenter. Ugh. Shildt yanks Weaver after he gives up seven hits and a walk over 3 and 23 innings. I was a little surprised to see Ross come in to face Harper, and Harper hits a liner to center that even Bader can’t get to. Bader nearly throws Eaton out at home, and the Cards challenge the play at the plate, but the safe call is confirmed. Two inherited runners score on the play. Ross gets Rendon to ground out to end the inning, but the Nationals push two more across and lead 4 to 1.

In the bottom of the 4th, O’Neill walks for just the third time in nearly 60 major league at bats this year. Unfortunately, the Cards strand him at first as Ozuna flies out, DeJong lines out, and Wong pops out. Cards still trail by three.

In the 5th inning, Washington scored again on a hard single to right by Murphy, a walk to Wieters, an error by Wong—allowing Roark, the pitcher, to reach for the 3rd time tonight—and then an error by Ross allowing Eaton to reach and Murphy to score the fifth run for Washington. The Nationals lead 5-1 after some sloppy defense by the Cardinals.

In the home half of the 5th, Bader led off with a walk but never advanced as the next three guys make routine outs. That’s two innings in a row the Cards waste a lead-off walk. After five innings, the Cardinals have 1 hit, 1 run, and 3 errors.

In the 6th inning, Ross comes out and strikes out Harper, gets Rendon to ground out after running the count full, walks Soto on four pitches, and then gets Zimmerman to pop out to Ozuna in shallow left. Ross has thrown 55 pitches (31 for strikes) going 2.1 innings giving up 2 hits, 2 walks, 1 strike out, while allowing 1 run plus 2 of 3 inherited runners to score.

In the bottom of the 6th, Roark faces Molina having thrown 68 pitches—40 for strikes. He’s been effective, and while he’s only struck out 3, he’s only given up 1 hit—Bader’s home run back in the 3rd. Molina lines out to short. O’Neill hits a liner into left-center that he turns into a double. Ozuna flies out sharply to the track in center, allowing O’Neill to tag up and advance to third. It felt like a good opportunity for DeJong, and with 2 strikes he lined a single to center scoring O’Neill and bringing Wong to the plate. Hitless in his first two at-bats, Wong comes through with a double into the left-center field gap that gets by Soto and scores DeJong from first. On a full-count pitch, Bader hits a grounder to third that Rendon has to hurry because of Bader’s speed, and his throw bounces past first for an error. Wong scores from second and Bader ends up at second. Garcia kills the rally with a flyout on the first first pitch, but the Cardinals’ offense finally stirs as Roark throws 29 pitches in the inning, and the Cardinals chip their way back to within 1. The Nationals lead 5-4.

In the top of the 7th, Ross is back out for what will surely be his last inning. His spot is due up first in the bottom half. Murphy grounds out to first. Wieters grounds out to second. Ex-Cardinal Mark Reynolds pinch hits for Ross, and grounds out sharply to short. DeJong made a really nice back-handed stop and a strong throw for the out.

After the stretch, the Cards send up pinch-hitter Patrick Wisdom to face right-handed reliever Justin Miller, who’s been very tough on righthanders this year. Wisdom works a leadoff walk, but Carpenter pops out to center. It’s the third time tonight Carpenter has swung at the first pitch of his at-bat. Molina follows with a fly out, and O’Neill strikes out. The Cards still trail by one.

The top of the 8th brings in Brett Cecil who strikes out Eaton, gets Turner to fly out sharply to the wall in center, and Harper to ground out to second with Wong making a good play. It’s Cecil’s first appearance in a long time, and to everyone’s mild surprise, he sets down the heart of the Nationals’ order in order. His curveball looked pretty good to me.

The Cards’ half of the 8th starts with Ozuna grounding out to third, DeJong striking out, and Wong flying out. Miller has looked strong, going two innings with two strike outs, one walk, and no hits.

The top of the 9th brings Mike Mayers into the game with the Cards trailing by one. Rendon leads off with a two-strike base hit to left. Mayers strikes out Soto on back-to-back sliders. Zimmerman walks, putting runners at first and second with one out, but Mayers recovers to strike out Murphy with a full-count slider. Wieters pops out to third, and the Cards will come to bat trailing 5-4.

The bottom of the 9th starts off with Bader up, who’s already homered tonight. Bader works the count full but strikes out looking at a nasty back-up slider that nips the inside corner. Greg Garcia bats again, even though he’s 0 for 3 on the night. He lines out to the pitcher, and Jose Martinez enters as a pinch hitter with two outs and the Cards down by one and Carpenter on deck. Martinez comes through with a lined single to right, and is replaced by pinch runner John Gant at first. Carpenter is 0 for 3 on the night but, with a full count and the crowd on its feet, he takes ball four waaaay outside. Molina is up with two on and two out and the Cards trailing by a single run. He’s 0 for 4 on the night—make that 0 for 5 as Molina flies out meekly to center on the first pitch. That was anticlimactic.

Game over. Cards lose by one, and the winning streak is over as the Nationals avoid a four-game sweep. The Cubs won (1-0), so the Cards fall to five games back in the division. The Brewers had the day off, so the Cards drop to 1.5 games behind them.

The Cardinals open a three-game series at home Friday evening against the Milwaukee Brewers with an opportunity to climb into second place in the division with a sweep.

Let’s go Cards.