WASHINGTON • It took an unerring bunt strolling down the third-base line for the Cardinals to unlock their offense and a rigid show from the bullpen to secure a second comeback victory in as many nights against Washington.
Kolten Wong dropped a bases-loaded, two-out bunt in the fourth inning to conjure the Cardinals' first run of the game and setup Harrison Bader for the decisive hit of the evening. Bader's two-run, two-out single sent the Cardinals to a 3-2 victory Tuesday night at Nationals Park.
It was the second time in two days the Nats botched an early lead of at least two runs.
Tyler Webb, John Gant, and Andrew Miller froze the game there by covering the final eight outs with only a one-run lead. Gant handled the eighth and got two batters into the ninth inning before lefty Miller came into the game and retired two batters for the save. The save was Miller's first of the season -- and it came on the last day of April.
The Cardinals won their 10th game in their past 12.
What Adam Wainwright (3-2) left after his 6 1/3 innings the bullpen handled with no margin for error. Webb inherited two runners and would have retired both of the hitters assigned to him if not for an error. He ended the seventh inning with a double play that kept the Cardinals one-run intact after the Nats had pushed the tying run into scoring position.
John Gant entered in the eighth inning and retired three batters in order with the potential tying run watching from first base.
Wainwright allowed two solo home runs that jacked the Nats to an early 2-0 lead. He pitched into trouble with a couple of hit batters and a four-pitch walk to former teammate Matt Adams. Yet, each time he was able to find an escape hatch. He struck out back-to-back batters with two runners on to end the third inning, and the sixth inning took him five pitches to retire the side in order.
The rally, this time, began along the tightrope that's fair territory around the third-base line.
With the bases loaded, two outs, and trailing by two, Cardinals infielder Wong dropped a bunt down the third base line. He couldn't have putted it any straighter -- and the pace of the ball and location of the ball gave the Washington Nationals no play on it. Wong was safe at first with an RBI. Paul DeJong ran by the sneaky bunt on his way home as the Cardinals' first run of the game.
The bases remained loaded. The Nationals still stuck on two outs.
Bader, the next batter, put the Cardinals ahead when he roped a two-run single over the reach of the second baseman. Bader, in his second start since returning from the injured list, had RBIs in back-to-back games for the first time this season. The last time he had as many consecutive games with at least one RBI was against Washington last season.
For the second time in as many days at Nationals Park, the Cardinals came from behind and did so with all of the runs in their comeback coming in one inning.
Matt Carpenter struck out four times in the game before walking in the ninth inning.
Yadier Molina saw his hitting streak end at 16 games, a career-best. Molina went hitless in three at-bats, though he did draw a walk and score a run on Bader's single. His was the go-ahead run.
Cardinals Fowler has the flu, won't be available Tuesday vs. Nationals
After his pinch-hit appearance Monday night in the Cardinals' victory at Nationals Park, Dexter Fowler began to feel worse and flu-like symptoms that had started became full-blown, manager Mike Shildt said.
For his and the team's well-being Tuesday, Shildt added, the Cardinals urged their switch-hitting outfielder to remain back at the team hotel, get some fluids, and get well for Wednesday. Fowler did not stay at the ballpark (if he reported at all), did not participate in the pre-game activities, and will not be available for the night's game against host Washington.
That does ease Harrison Bader into a second consecutive start.
In his first start since coming back from the injured list (IL), Bader hit a homer, nearly a stole base, and got what he called the first bunt single of his career. (Statistically he was credited with one back in 2017.) His home run sparked the Cardinals' six-run fifth inning Monday night that led to a 6-3 victory.
Veteran reliever Luke Gregerson did join the team late Monday night, and he was in uniform for pre-game work Tuesday but not on the active roster. The Cardinals are going to have Gregerson throw a live batting practice session at Nationals Park on Wednesday. He will face teammates in a setting similar to what pitchers do in spring training. That effectively means the earliest he'll be placed on the active roster is the team's series in Chicago, if they give the righthander Thursday to recover from his live BP outing.
The Cardinals' coaches want to see Gregerson's stuff in person against big-league hitters after hearing about his work in the minors.
Gregerson has almost exhausted his allowed rehab assignment.
Here are the lineups for Tuesday's second game of this four-day visit to the nation's capital:
1. Matt Carpenter, 3B
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
3. Paul DeJong, SS
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. Jose Martinez, RF
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Kolten Wong, 2B
8. Harrison Bader, CF
9. Adam Wainwright, P
1. Adam Eaton, RF
2. Victor Robles, CF
3. Juan Soto, LF
4. Matt Adams, 1B
5. Kurt Suzuki, C
6. Carter Kieboom, SS
7. Brian Dozier, 2B
8. Wilmer Difo, SS
9. Anibal Sanchez, P
Check back throughout the evening here at StlToday.com and C-Beat for additional coverage from Nationals Park, including any news, notes, quotes, and anecdotes that surface throughout the game.