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Script flips: Nats capitalize on Cards errors

2014-04-18T16:49:00Z 2014-04-19T02:17:05Z Script flips: Nats capitalize on Cards errorsBy Derrick Goold dgoold@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8285 stltoday.com

WASHINGTON • A night after the Nationals couldn't make the plays to suppress the Cardinals' offense, the Cardinals made the errors that spurred the Nationals'.

Washington took a 3-1 win Friday night at Nationals Park and the go-ahead and insurance run both scored on an errant throw by catcher Yadier Molina in the seventh inning.

The Cardinals brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning.

With Matt Adams on deck as a potential pinch hitter, Shane Robinson grounded into a game-ending double play. Mark Ellis had worked a walk from Washington closer Rafael Soriano to bring the tying run to the plate. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny elected with one out to keep Adams back for the next better -- the potential go-ahead run -- instead of using one of the team's leading hitters as the tying run.

Michael Wacha took the loss, though two of the three runs he allowed were unearned.

Gio Gonzalez got the win, Washington's first since 2012 vs. Cardinals.

***

Errors undo Cards in seventh

Second-year starter Michael Wacha had found an escape hatch from a bases-loaded, no-outs mess in the bottom of the seventh. He was one out away from leaving the quagmire with the score still tied. He even had the hitter there to pull it off.

Then the error came.

An inning that became complicated by an error at third base was undone by an error at home plate.

With the bases loaded and an 0-1 count to pinch-hitter Zach Walters, Wacha skipped a pitch in the dirt. The carom got away from catcher Yadier Molina. That allowed Ian Desmond to score from third base. Molina scurried after the ball and flipped it back toward Wacha at home plate. The throw was wide and the roll was worse.

The ball slid all the way into the dugout and the waiting arms of a jacketed coach.

By rule, that brought home Danny Espinosa.

The Nationals broke the 1-1 tie and took a 3-1 lead into their bullpen. Gio Gonzalez had to be lifted for the pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh. Gonzalez struck out seven and walked one through his seven innings. He allowed one run on four hits -- three of which came consecutively in the top of the fourth inning.

Wacha is out of the game now as well. He allowed three runs on five hits. Only one of his runs is earned because of the two errors in the seventh inning.

Wacha struck out seven.

The Nationals committed the errors that created the Cardinals' victory on Thursday here at Nationals Park. Washington committed three errors in the official box score. They had far more misplays than three.

***

Ellis answers with RBI single to tie game, 1-1

Before Nationals leadoff hitter Anthony Rendon connected with a hanging curve in the third inning tonight, Washington didn't have a hit that escaped the infield against Michael Wacha.

Through 12 innings against the young righty, the Nats had two infield hits -- including a drag bunt single tonight -- and no runs.

That changed on the first pitch of Rendon's second at-bat.

The righthanded hitting third baseman connected for a bolt over the wall in left field. That put the Nationals ahead, 1-0. It also gave them the first run of this four-game visit to the capital by the Cardinals.

The lead didn't last.

The Cardinals answered in the top of fourth inning with three consecutive hits against Nats lefty Gio Gonzalez. Allen Craig doubled with one out to get in scoring position. He moved to third on Yadier Molina's single, and Craig then scored when Ellis looped a single to right field.

The RBI was Ellis' third since coming off the DL on Tuesday.

***

Wacha looks to continue Cards hold over Nats

When last Michael Wacha pitched against the Washington Nationals he asserted his claim to a starting job in the postseason with a near no-hitter.

History glanced just off the end of his glove.

An infield single in the ninth inning kept Wacha from throwing the first no-hitter at Busch Stadium III last September even as it catapulted the righty into October. The Nationals are seeking some success not just against Wacha, but also against the Cardinals. The Cardinals have had a hex over the Nats since Game 5 of the National League division series in 2012. Even Pete Kozma keeps coming up in the media here. Last night's game didn't help as the Nationals played one of the most putrid games in their history. They committed four errors and lost 8-0. Adam Wainwright was dominant for his seventh career shutout.

Wait, make that three errors.

Hold on. I'll explain.

Here are some pre-game notes from the media chat:

-- The official scorer has ruled that the error given Jayson Werth in the eighth inning Thursday night was actually a double by Yadier Molina. Molina's statistics will reflect the double.

-- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny spoke at the U.S. Department of State today, giving a lecture on leadership and drawing from lessons he's learned on the baseball field.

-- Matheny said the new transfer rule is going to take some getting used to, and, yes, several of the Cardinals thought the play at second base last night was an out. They were surprised to find out that, by rule, the out had not been completed.

-- Matheny explained going with the righty-heavy lineup against the not-so-splitty Gio Gonzalez as an excuse to get some players rest.

"Some of our lefties have hit Gio pretty well," Matheny said. "It’s not always going to be a straight split. This is a good time to get them a day, break up the road trip a little bit. Get some guys the time they deserve. We also know the majority of our righthanders when they see that lefty come around the anticipate, get anxious to get in there, get an opportunity."

***

Matheny goes right vs. lefty Gonzalez

With former 20-game winner Gio Gonzalez on the mound for the Washington Nationals tonight, the Cardinals are going with a righty-rich lineup.

No Kolten Wong. No Matt Adams.

Yes, Allen Craig is batting cleanup.

After leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals have eight consecutive righthanded hitters awaiting Gonzalez. Mark Ellis takes over at second base, and Jhonny Peralta moves up to No. 2 into the lineup.

The lineup cuts against some of Gonzalez tendencies, both recent and in his career. Jon Jay, a lefthanded hitter, for example has three hits in six career at-bats against Gonzalez.

Lefties this season have done better against the Nats lefty:

Righthanded batters vs. ... .214/.286/.393

Lefthanded batters vs. ... .300/.385/.700

That's a small sample sizes, so maybe the career numbers are better:

RHB vs. (career) ... .230/.317/.349

LHB vs. (career) ... .237/.313/.383

Not much difference to find there.

Here's the lineup.

1. Matt Carpenter, 3B

2. Jhonny Peralta, SS

3. Matt Holliday, LF

4. Allen Craig, 1B

5. Yadier Molina, C

6. Mark Ellis, 2B

7. Shane Robinson, RF

8. Peter Bourjos, CF

9. Michael Wacha, P

Check back throughout the evening here for news, notes, anecdotes and whatnot from the ballpark.

Derrick Goold covers the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for The Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @dgoold or on Facebook at Facebook.com/BirdLandPD

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Baseball writers Derrick Goold and Rick Hummel cover the Cardinals for the Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com. They'll provide daily Cardinals updates here, from the start of spring training through the end of the season and beyond.

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