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Late rally gives Nationals 3-2 win over Cardinals in Game 1

The Nationals rallied for two runs in the eighth inning and held on from there, beating the Cardinals 3-2 in the opener of their Division Series.

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Cardinals, Nationals: The shadows know

Shadows across the infield were a major problem in Game 1 in St. Louis. They could be again in Game 2, and in Washington for Game 3. How can MLB fix this scheduling issue?


Nationals rally late, stun Cardinals in Game 1

The St. Louis Cardinals couldn't capitalize on scoring opportunities, and the Washington Nationals won Game 1, 3-2, on a two-out bloop from pinch-hitter Tyler Moore.


Storen saves Nationals' 3-2 win with perfect 9th

After spending most of the game trailing the Cardinals 2-1, the Washington Nationals took a 3-2 lead on a clutch, two-out bloop single in the eighth inning, and the bullpen took over from there to seal the victory in Game 1 of this National League Division Series.

St. Louis took that 2-1 lead in the second inning, thanks to Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez's wildness; he walked four batters, and two of them scored. In the middle innings, both teams squandered good scoring chances. In the sixth, the Nationals loaded the bases with two outs but didn't score. In the seventh, the Cardinals loaded the bases with nobody out, but failed to score when Ryan Mattheus recorded three outs on two pitches (a postseason first).

In the eighth, though, pinch-hitter Tyler Moore came through with a single that dropped into right field with two outs and runners on second and third, giving the Nats a 3-2 lead.

In the bottom of that inning, recently demoted closer Tyler Clippard held the Cardinals scoreless. And in the ninth, new closer Drew Storen set down the Cards in order, finishing by striking out Matt Holliday.


Cardinals down 3-2, down to their last 3 outs

After falling behind by a run in the top of the eighth inning, the Cardinals mounted a modest threat in the bottom of the inning but came away with nothing.

With closer Tyler Clippard taking over on the mound -- what's this? in the eighth inning? -- David Freese led off with a grounder to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Perfectly routine play, but Zimmerman bounced the throw and Adam LaRoche couldn't come up with it. Mike Matheny ordered the sacrifice bunt, and Daniel Descalso executed. But Clippard got Pete Kozma to pop out, and then he struck out pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter to end the inning.

The Nationals are ahead 3-2 after eight innings, and in the bottom of the ninth ... what? Will Davey Johnson ask Clippard to get more than three outs for the first time in 2012?


Moore's clutch hit gives Nationals 3-2 lead in 8th

In the bottom of the seventh, the Cardinals missed a golden opportunity to add to their minimalist lead, when a) they loaded the bases with nobody out, and 2) Nationals reliefer Ryan Mattheus became the first pitcher in postseason history to record three outs on two pitches.

Just another day at the ballpark.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Nationals found their own golden opportunity and didn't blow it.

With St. Louis reliever Mitchell Boggs on the mound, Mike Morse slapped a grounder toward shortstop, where Pete Kozma foozled it for an error. Ian Desmond followed with a base hit that chased Morse to third. Danny Espinosa bunted Desmond to second, with Morse holding third.

Two on, just one out. But Kurt Suzuki struck out swinging while Chris Singleton, in the ESPN Radio booth, didn't shorten his swing and just try to put the ball in play.

With Chad Tracy coming up as a pinch-hitter, Mike Matheny summoned lefty Mike Rzepczynski from the bullpen, so Davey Johnson countered with pinch-hitter Tyler Moore.

The move "worked" when Moore did just put the ball in play, lofting a pop-up that fell in shallow right field, with first Morse and then Desmond crossing the plate to give the Nationals their first lead since the second inning.

Rzepczynski struck out Jason Werth to end the rally, but the damage was done. Heading to the bottom of the eighth, the Nationals are ahead of the Cardinals, 3-2.


Cards blow chance to add on in the 7th

The Cardinals have led the Washington Nationals throughout Game 1 of the NLDS, even though they haven't really done anything. They haven't had an extra-base hit, and their two runs came on a wild pitch and a sac fly after Gio Gonzalez walked the bases loaded.

The closest they came to an extra-base hit was when Daniel Descalso drove a ball to the warning track in the sixth inning, but Jayson Werth made a great catch against the wall

In the bottom of the seventh, though, the Cardinals had a great chance to help themselves. Jon Jay opened the inning by reaching on a tough error from Adam LaRoche, Carlos Beltran followed that with a line-drive single, and Matt Holliday was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no one out, bringing up cleanup hitter Allen Craig.

But Craig grounded in to a force out, shortstop to home, and Yadier Molina grounded into a double play. From bases loaded and no one out, to out of the inning without a run scoring. Take it away, Sam:


Nationals leave 'em loaded, still trail 2-1 in 6th

Somewhat miraculously, Gio Gonzalez gave up only two runs in the first five innings of his Game 1 start, despite issuing seven walks (tying his career high). Having thrown 109 pitches already, Gonzalez will give way to the bullpen in the bottom of the sixth.

Meanwhile, Adam Wainwright wasn't exactly economical with his pitches, but for a different reason. Where Gonzalez walked seven Cardinals, Wainwright struck out 10 Nationals. That's a 2012 high for Wainwright unless you count a game against the Houston Astros (and really, why would you?).

Perhaps more impressively, this is the first time a St. Louis pitcher has reached double figures in strikeouts since 1968, when Bob Gibson struck out 10 Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series.

Nevertheless, Wainwright didn't survive the sixth inning. With two outs and a man on first base, Kurt Suzuki hung tough and worked an eight-pitch walk. That eighth pitch was Wainwright's 100th in the game, and Mike Matheny had seen enough. He summoned ex-starter, All-Star, and 18-game winner Lance Lynn from the bullpen

Lynn walked pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina on four pitches. Lynn struck out Jason Werth on a curveball. It's the second time in the game that Werth killed a bases-loaded rally with two outs.

Now we can settle in for a three-inning battle of the bullpens.


Wainwright is still good, Gio is still wild

It's funny to go back and look at all the "WHAT'S WRONG WITH _____?" articles at the end of the season, tallying up the ones we really should have been worried about. Albert Pujols? Nope. Tim Lincecum? Yep. Alex Gordon? Nope. Ervin Santana? Yep.

And it's hard to remember now, but Adam Wainwright was the subject of a lot of those articles, coming back after Tommy John surgery and posting a 6.16 ERA through his first seven starts. But his strikeout-to-walk ratio suggested that he was the same pitcher, and the maths were right; after the early struggles, he settled in nicely.

His start in Game 1 on Sunday, though, might be one of his most impressive outings since coming back from his injury. Wainwright has tied a season high in strikeouts with nine, and he's through only five innings.

Well, okay, Wainwright's real season high is 12, but that was against the Astros.

On the other side, Gio Gonzalez has been grinding through his outing, tying his career mark for walks in a single game with seven. At 109 pitches, he's a longshot to return for the sixth.


Cardinals still lead Nationals, 2-1 after 4 frames

Here's the good news about Gio Gonzalez: He's working on a one-hitter!

Here's the bad news about Gio Gonzalez: He's losing to the Cardinals, 2-1! In just four innings, he's matched his regular-season high with five walks! And he's thrown 83 pitches already!

Aside from his wild second inning -- in which he walked four Cardinals and wild-pitched a runner home -- Gonzalez has actually pitched well enough, except for that big pitch count. In the bottom of the fourth, Gonzalez gave up a leadoff single to David Freese, but held the Cardinals in check after that.

Meanwhile, Adam Wainwright suffered his own bout of wildness in the second inning, but his wasn't as serious or as damaging. Wainwright has thrown only 62 pitches in his four innings, despite having seven strikeouts already. Wainwright reached double figures in strikeouts just once all season, and even that comes with an asterisk; in August, he struck out a dozen Astros.


Gio Gonzalez walks 4, Cards take 2-1 lead in 2

In the top of the second inning, Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright got into a big bases-loaded jam. He escaped after allowing just one run.

In the bottom of the second inning, Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez got into a bigger bases-loaded jam, and this was completely self-inflicted as Gonzalez walked four of the first five batters he faced, including Wainwright. This was spectacularly unexpected; with a walk in the first, Gonzalez has issued five walks already, equaling his high for a whole game during the regular season. Essentially, he looks like a guy who hasn't pitched in a while. Which Gonzalez hasn't.

But just as with Wainwright, it could have have been a lot worse for Gonzalez. After uncorking a wild pitch that brought home one run, walking Wainwright to reload the bases, and giving up a sacrifice fly to Jon Jay, Gonzalez retired Carlos Beltran on a fly ball to end the rally.

So after two innings and a lot more wildness than we expected, the score is Cardinals 2, Nationals 1.


Nationals take 1-0 lead but leave bases loaded

He cruised through the first inning, but Adam Wainwright got himself into a big jam in the second. A big jam, largely of his own making.

Adam LaRoche led off, and walked. Wainwright struck out Mike Morse, but Ian Desmond singled and LaRoche sprinted to third base. Wainwright recovered to strike out Danny Espinosa -- the fourth strikeout already -- but Kurt Suzuki poked a single into left field for a 1-0 lead.

Worst yet, Wainwright walked Gio Gonzalez on four pitches to load the bases. With Jason Werth coming up.

And then Wainwright escaped. He threw a 1-and-1 curveball to Werth, who hit an easy grounder to shortstop Pete Kozma, who threw the ball to Allen Craig, who caught the ball with his mitt while his right foot was touching the first base, which meant Werth was out and the Nationals would have to be content, for the moment at least, with their 1-0 lead.


Bryce Harper's 19-year-old greatness

They're still playing that nail-biter in Detroit, but that didn't stop the Nationals and Cardinals from starting their Division Series in St. Louis.

In the top of the first, Adam Wainwright had little trouble with the top of Washington's order, striking out both Jason Werth and Ryan Zimmerman. Wainwright retired Bryce Harper, too, but that won't stop us from trumpeting Harper's talents.

In nine days, Harper turns 20. While he did make the National League's All-Star team this summer, it's probably fair to suggest that Harper was overshadowed in baseball by Mike Trout's incredible season, and in D.C. and environs by the controversy surrounding Stephen Strasburg.

But here are the 19-year-old players in major-league history who finished with more Wins Above Replacement than Bryce Harper:

Yeah. There aren't any. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Harper's 5.0 WAR were tops all-time among 19-year-old players, well ahead of Mel Ott (1928), Edgar Renteria (1996), Ken Griffey (1989) and Ty Cobb (1906). So while Harper's not an MVP candidate like Trout, he already looks like a pretty good bet for the Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, back in Game 1, Gio Gonzalez issued a two-out walk to Matt Holliday, but retired Allen Craig on a fly to center field to end the first inning. So we're still scoreless in St. Louis.


No surprises in Davey Johnson's Game 1 lineup

With right-hander Adam Wainwright pitching for the Cardinals, Nationals manager Davey Johnson isn't doing anything unexpected with his lineup in Game 1 of their Division Series:

1. Jayson Werth - RF
2. Bryce Harper* - CF
3. Ryan Zimmerman - 3B
4. Adam LaRoche* - 1B
5. Michael Morse - LF
6. Ian Desmond - SS
7. Danny Espinosa# - 2B
8. Kurt Suzuki - C
9. Gio Gonzalez - SP

This has been Johnson's preferred group of players ever since Kurt Suzuki joined the club back in early August, although injuries have kept him from playing all of them together until fairly late in the season. Johnson hit upon his exact order in late August, and we can expect to see more of this as the postseason moves along.

LaRoche, 32 this season, set a career with 33 home runs and finished with exactly 100 RBI for the second time in the last three seasons.

The first pitch in this one is scheduled for 3:07 Eastern.


Mike Matheny posts Game 1 lineup against Nats

Manager Mike Matheny has posted his lineup for Game 1 of the St. Louis Cardinals' Division Series against the Washington Nationals, who have right-hander Gio Gonzalez slated for opening mound duties:

1. Jon Jay* - CF
2. Carlos Beltran# - RF
3. Matt Holliday - LF
4. Allen Craig - 1B
5. Yadier Molina - C
6. David Freese - 3B
7. Daniel Descalso* - 2B
8. Pete Kozma - SS
9. Adam Wainwright - P

There are absolutely no surprises here. This wasn't a common lineup during the season, because of injuries and whatnot. But it's the lineup Matheny settled upon at the tail end of the season. The good news is that Gio Gonzalez isn't particularly tough on right-handed hitters. The bad news is that Gio Gonzalez is just tough, generally.

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