By Michael Marzzacco
The Cardinals beat the Nationals 9-4 in front of a packed Saturday night crowd at Nationals Park despite a great night from Ryan Zimmerman and a home run by Bryce Harper. The Cardinals now lead the four game weekend series 2-1 as the Nats look to even the series at two this afternoon.
The Cards got on the board in the second. With two on, Greg Garcia singled to score one. Then Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright smacked a double into left field to clear the bases and put St. Louis up 3-0. Matt Carpenter sent Wainwright home with a double of his own.
Down 4-0, the Nats would answer in the bottom of that inning. Daniel Murphy got a blooper single right field which was his 41st hit in the month of May. That set a new Nationals all-time record for hits in a month.
“The hits are falling for me right now. I didn’t hit a single ball hard tonight. It wasn’t even close. Adam chewed me up and spit me out. I didn’t hit a ball hard yesterday either. Sometimes they just fall,” said Murphy.
With Murphy on, Ryan Zimmerman homered to right-center field to cut the deficit in half at 4-2. The Cardinals answered in the top of the third with a solo shot by Matt Holliday into the left field bullpen.
St. Louis tacked on another run in the fifth. In the sixth, Bryce Harper belted his 13th home run of the season into centerfield making it a 6-3 game. The Nats pulled within 6-4 in the seventh with Zimmerman’s second home run of the night. This one landed into the red seats in centerfield over by the Budweiser Brew House (formerly known as the Red Porch).
In the past eight games, Zimmerman has tallied five homers, six runs, and eight RBIs.
“It felt good. Any time you do that, it always feels good. You wish you can do it in a win. For me, I just got to keep going, keep working like I always do,” Zimmerman said. “By the end of the year, like I always say, numbers will be where they’re supposed to be.”
That was as close as Washington would get. St. Louis scored three more runs and took game three of the four game set, 9-4.
Wainwright was not only impressive at the plate but on the mound as well. The Cardinals ace struck out five and went seven innings despite giving up three home runs. Gio Gonzalez pitched for the Nats and he had a rough night. It seems as if the Nats never know what they’re going to get whenever Gio is on the hill. He took the loss and went 4.2 innings allowing six runs on six hits while striking out six. He was pulled in the fifth.
“My biggest upset right now is how much work I’m giving my bullpen. I can’t stand it,” Gonzalez told reporters after the game. “I’m a way better pitcher than what I’m showing out there. And it sucks that guys are constantly picking up my mess. As a pitcher, I pride myself on being the guy that can go the distance and work his tail off.”
Nationals manager Dusty Baker said the walks Gonzalez gave up were also a big factor in the rough start. Gonzalez walked four.
“The start before this, it was location. Then what hurt this time were the walks,” Baker said.
“That out pitch, we didn’t have it today with two strikes,” catcher Jose Lobaton added. “We needed that fastball in or that curveball in the dirt. And sometimes he threw some curveballs that really got in the dirt and they didn’t swing.”
The Nats turn to Stephen Strasburg while the Cardinals will counter with Michael Wacha. The Nationals have won 14 consecutive starts when Strasburg takes the hill. First pitch from DC is at 1:35.