Jack Flaherty pitched reasonably well in his return, but the Cardinals offense was shut down by Anibal Sanchez and the vaunted Nationals’ bullpen. It was one of the worst offensive showings from St. Louis this season, but amidst a string of impressive performances, we’ll chalk this one up as a fluke.
Here’s how today’s loss went down:
Making his first start since June 26, Jack Flaherty was able to put up a zero in the first inning on 18 pitches. After getting former teammate Lane Thomas to fly out to center and striking out Luis Garcia, Joey Meneses reached out and looped an 0-2 fastball that was way outside the zone into right field for a base hit. Flaherty fought back to get a groundout from another former Cardinal, Luke Voit, to end the inning.
Lars Nootbaar led off Monday’s game against 38-year old Anibal Sanchez and hit a deep fly ball to right field that looked like it might clear the wall for a homer, but it died on the track as Nationals’ right fielder Josh Palacios made the catch up against the wall. Tyler O’Neill followed and squibbed a ground ball to the right side, and neither Sanchez nor the first baseman Meneses were able to beat him to the bag. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado followed with back-to-back walks to load the bases for Albert Pujols, who was sitting at 695 career homers.
After falling behind 0-2, Pujols worked the count back to 2-2 before waiving at a letter-high fastball and missing for strike three. Corey Dickerson flew out to left field to end the first inning.
Flaherty walked Keibert Ruiz on four pitches, but then turned around and got groundouts from Cesar Hernandez and Ildemaro Vargas and a popout from Palacios to get out of the inning.
Nolan Gorman struck out swinging — his fifth strikeout in his last seven at-bats. Yadier Molina grounded out to shortstop. Tommy Edman laid down a nice bunt down the third base line, but Sanchez rushed to it and made a strong throw to get the final out of the second inning.
CJ Abrams — who was acquired from San Diego in the Juan Soto trade — led off the third with a line drive towards O’Neill in center field. The big Canadian laid out for it but wasn’t able to get a glove on it, as the ball rolled all the way to the wall for a triple. Thomas hit next and hammered a ground-rule double into the right field corner, scoring Abrams and making it 1-0 Washington in the third.
After giving up the RBI double to Thomas, Flaherty struck out Garcia, Meneses, and Voit in a row to get out of the inning without any further damage.
Nootbaar flew out to Hernandez in left field, O’Neill grounded out to third, and Goldschmidt grounded out to Abrams at shortstop for a quick 1-2-3 bottom of the third.
Ruiz, who the Nats acquired in the Max Scherzer & Trea Turner trade, singled to center leading off the fourth. Hernandez followed with a single to right, moving Ruiz to second. Vargas laid down a quality bunt down the third base line, with Arenado making the play at first base and allowing both runners to move over. Flaherty struck out Palacios with a 97 mph fastball on the outside, and then Abrams lined out to Nootbaar in right field to strand both runners and keep the deficit at one run.
Arenado hit a 1-1, center cut fastball to the wall in right field, but Palacios settled under it with Cardinal fans quite literally over top of him on the warning track for the first out. Pujols flew out to left field for the second out. Dickerson flew out to right field to end the fourth.
Flaherty hit Lane Thomas in the arm with a fastball to start the fifth inning. He struck out Garcia for the first out, but Meneses singled to left field, and Thomas went first to third. Voit flew out to shallow center field for the second out, and Thomas did not test his former teammate’s arm, retreating to third base. Ruiz flew out to Nootbaar in right field for the third and final out.
Flaherty’s final line: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K’s (91 pitches)
Gorman struck out swinging to start the fifth. Molina singled up the middle with one out, breaking up a stretch where Sanchez had retired 12 straight Cardinal hitters. Edman grounded into a fielder’s choice out, with the third baseman Vargas going to second base to nab Molina, with Edman reaching at first. Sanchez pickoff throw to first moments later missed first base and rolled towards the wall, allowing Edman to move to second. Nootbaar flew out to the warning track in right field to end the inning.
Sanchez’ final line: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K’s (81 pitches)
Andre Pallante took over in the sixth after five fine innings from Jack, and it got messy pretty quickly. The Nationals beat him with a million little cuts, adding to their lead.
Hernandez singled to left field. Vargas hit a ground ball back to Pallante, who threw to second for the force out there. Palacios singled to left field, moving Vargas to second base. Abrams hit a short ground ball to Arenado with an exit velocity of 69 mph, but Nolan had no play on the speedy Abrams. Thomas worked the count full against Pallante, fouled off three more pitches, and then drew a bases loaded walk to force in a run and make it 2-0.
After the walk, Garcia hit a slow ground ball in the Bermuda Triangle between first base, second base, and the mound for an infield single, driving in another run to make it 3-0 Washington.
Oli Marmol pulled Pallante and went with Chris Stratton, who gave up an RBI single to Meneses to make it 4-0 Washington, with all the runners moving up one base. Luke Voit hit a sacrifice fly to right field to make it 5-0, and after a walk to Ruiz, Hernandez flew out to left field to finally stop the bleeding.
Right-hander Hunter Harvey took over for Washington after five shutout innings from Sanchez. O’Neill hit a deep fly ball off him leading off the inning, but it was caught on the warning track in left field. Goldschmidt and Arenado both grounded out sharply to Abrams at shortstop for the second and third outs.
Zack Thompson got the seventh and pitched a scoreless frame despite giving up a couple baserunners. Vargas and Palacious both flew out quickly, but Abrams singled to right field and Lane Thomas walked with two outs. Garcia flew out to Dickerson in left field to strand both runners.
Right-hander Mason Thompson pitched a scoreless bottom of the seventh. Pujols, Gorman, and Dickerson all grounded out in an eight-pitch inning.
James Naile pitched the top of the eighth inning, giving up one run on a Keibert Ruiz solo homer to make it 6-0 Nationals, which was his first earned run he’s allowed in seven big league innings. He also walked a batter and induced three groundouts.
Molina grounded out to short, and then Edman reached on an infield single towards third base. Nootbaar grounded into a force out and O’Neill flew out to end the inning.
Naile returned for the top of the ninth and Palacios grounded out leading off the inning. Abrams singled to left field — his fourth hit of the game. Thomas flew out for the second out of the ninth, and grounded right back to Naile.
Goldschmidt flew out to deep center field for the first out in the bottom of the ninth. Arenado struck out. Pujols flew out to left. Ballgame.
FINAL: Nationals 6, Cardinals 0
St. Louis (79-56) will try to get back on track Tuesday afternoon at home. Jose Quintana (4-6, 3.47 ERA) will make his seventh start as a Cardinal. He will be opposed by Panamanian right-hander Paolo Espino (0-6, 4.22 ERA) for the Nationals (48-87). First pitch is set for 6:45 p.m.
Around the Central
Brewers 6, Rockies 4
MLB Pickle #180 - 2/9