WASHINGTON • The fine-tuned, rolling-right-along machine that the Cardinals have become hit just enough of a Washington pothole Thursday night to bring the winning streak to an end.
An error in the fourth inning contributed to two runs for the Washington Nationals and eased them to a 2-1 victory at Nationals Park.
When Yairo Munoz fumbled the fielding on a grounder and then threw wide of first base, that allowed one run to score to tie the game and a runner to advance to third base. When starter Dakota Hudson got the grounder that Munoz was able to convert into a double play, the go-ahead run scored, and the rest of the game left the Cardinals trying to position for a response.
In each of the final four innings the Cardinals got the tying run on base, and in each of those innings that runner got as far as third base twice.
But no further.
The Cardinals head to Chicago for an afternoon game Friday at Wrigley Field having had their five-game winning streak snapped. They've won 11 of their previous 14 games and they retain the lead in the National League Central.
Although he didn't start the game, Paul Goldschmidt had a shot at owning it. In the eighth inning the Cardinals used two singles and a walk to get the bases loaded as lefty Sean Doolittle entered the game. With two outs and a one-run deficit, manager Mike Shildt went to Goldschmidt to pinch-hit for Matt Wieters. The move was going to use two regulars earmarked for rest -- Goldschmidt to hit and Yadier Molina to catch. Goldschmidt fell behind in the count 0-2. He tagged a fastball deep -- but also well foul down the left-field line.
He appeared to check his swing on a 1-2 pitch, but first-base umpire Quinn Wolcott called him out to end the inning.
All of the regulars who did not start the game appeared in the game.
After two times through the Cardinals lineup, Washington starter Stephen Strasburg had struck out eight of the 18 batters he faced and made a little history.
By striking out Dakota Hudson to end the first inning, Strasburg collected the 1,500th strikeout of his career. He is the fastest in major-league history to reach that number based on innings pitched. Chris Sale had established the quickest pace with 1,500 strikeouts in his first 1,290 innings in the majors. Strasburg got to 1,500 in 1,272 1/3 innings.
Hudson had done well well to match Strasburg throughout Thursday.
The Cardinals' righthander retired the first eight batters he faced before walking Strasburg with two outs in the third inning. Consecutive walks amounted to little more than a delay in the third inning as Hudson got the groundout to end that inning and hold the Cardinals lead at 1-0. The Cardinals took the lead on Kolten Wong's two-out, RBI single in the third inning.,
Back-to-back singles by Matt Wieters and Yairo Munoz had started the rally, and Wieters getting picked off second momentarily delayed it.
Munoz scored on Wong's hit.
Hudson completed a career-high six innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits. He struck out seven, which is also a new career high for the first-year starter. He struck out the side in order in the second inning, and he struck out five of the first six batters he faced, leaning heavy on his sinker that arrived at velocities of 94 mph and 96 mph. The Nats didn't get a ball out of the infield until the fourth inning, during the rally that would give them the lead.
Cardinals trade Pena to San Francisco, turn to getaway lineup to sweep Nats
The search for a role and a spot in the organization and on the depth chart for former backup catcher Francisco Pena ended for the Cardinals on Thursday as they finally found a place for him.
It just didn't happen to be with them.
The Cardinals traded Pena, who served as Yadier Molina's backup in 2018, to San Francisco in exchange for cash. The move gives Pena a chance to have a clear road to the majors and be the backup that he wasn't going to be for the Cardinals, if Matt Wieters and Molina remained healthy. The trade was announced by the Cardinals.
Pena had been playing for Class AAA Memphis and is a few days removed from a three-hit game with the Redbirds.
Pena came to spring training as the incumbent and favorite to remain Molina's backup, but during spring the Cardinals signed former All-Star Matt Wieters. Wieters edged Pena for the job and left Pena with a decision -- opt-out of his contract with the Cardinals, as was his right, or accept an assignment to Memphis as part of the catching mix there, where prospect Andrew Knizner was going to get priority.
Pena ultimately agreed to stay with the Cardinals, and in mid-April he joined the Redbirds. He had six games with them.
The trade comes on a day when the Cardinals have fielded a getaway lineup that lacks a handful of regulars, including Molina. Paul Goldschmidt gets a break for the first time this season, and shortstop Paul DeJong also gets a rare day off. Jose Martinez makes four everyday players who will be the series finale against Washington on the bench. All the moves means Matt Carpenter won't be at leadoff and won't be at third base.
Instead he will flip those by batting third and playing first.
Some other notes:
- Dexter Fowler (flu) rejoined the team at the ballpark Thursday. He has been weakened by the illness and is trying to regroup and regain fluids. Manager Mike Shildt said the best hope is for Fowler to be available off the bench in the game, but that wasn't certain.
- Luke Gregerson (shoulder) recovered well from his outing against teammates on Wednesday. The Cardinals intend to make a decision on his roster spot this weekend at Wrigley Field. There is not a deadline for such a move, per se. But Gregerson is running out of days on which to have a rehab assignment without a recurrence of an injury.
- Severe weather in the D.C. area has delayed the start of the game.
Here's the lineup that will back first-year starter Dakota Hudson:
1. Kolten Wong, 2B
2. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
3. Matt Carpenter, 1B
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. Tyler O'Neill, RF
6. Harrison Bader, CF
7. Matt Wieters, C
8. Yairo Munoz, SS
9. Dakota Hudson, P
Check back throughout the afternoon for more coverage from Nationals Park and the final day of a four-games series against. News, notes, quotes, and whatever anecdotes come up will be shared here.