The Washington Nationals fought back from a shaky Gio Gonzalez start, kept the game close, and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on an eighth inning Tyler Moore pinch hit single to defeat the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The victory gave the Nats a 3-2 win in their first game against the Cardinals in the National League Division Series.
The victory marked the first ever post-season triumph for the D.C. Nine, who seemed on their way to defeat until a St. Louis shortstop Peter Kozma’s fielding error put Michael Morse on first with the potential tying run in the 8th. Ian Desmond followed with a single to right, sending Morse to third.
Even then, Washington had difficulty scoring: Danny Espinosa (who’d struck out in his previous three at bats) laid down a bunt, sending Ian Desmond to second. But the Espinosa bunt accounted for the inning’s first out. Kurt Suzuki followed Espinosa and struck out swinging.
It was then that super-sub Tyler Moore came off the bench and worked his magic, sending a Mark Rzepczynski offering into right field to give the Nationals the lead. “He threw some pretty tough pitches to me,” Moore said after the win. “I fouled off a couple. I was just able to kind of stick it out there and put the barrel on one, and it flared out to right.”
The Cardinals then had two chances to tie or win the game, but the Nationals bullpen proved equal to the challenge. Tyler Clippard worked the bottom of the 8th inning, setting down the Cardinals in order after the lead-off hitter reached on a throwing error from Ryan Zimmerman.
Drew Storen registered the save, setting down the Redbirds in order in the 9th inning. Storen struck out Matt Holliday to end the game and give Washington the come-from behind victory.
The turnaround in the game came on the Tyler Moore hit, but Ryan Mattheus’ relief effort in the bottom of the 7th inning is when the tide actually started to turn.
Mattheus came in with the bases loaded and nobody out — and he left with the bases loaded and three outs: inducing a force out at home and a double play. It was a brilliant relief effort. In the end, it seemed only just that Mattheus would be credited with the win.
Of course, Washington fans will likely remember the head-scratching opening from lefty Cy Young candidate Gio Gonzalez, who seemed to break down in the second inning. The normally steady Gonzalez gave up four walks in the inning, allowing St. Louis to plate two runs without a hit — one of the most frustrating outings of his year.
But the hallmark of Gio Gonzalez’s 2012 campaign has been his ability to survive rough innings, and he survived today; in the end, his pitching line looked good, if not great: five innings, five strikeouts and one hit. It was his seven walks that give pause, a sign that at least in this game, and for just one inning, he was not the Gio Gonzalez that Nats fans are used to seeing.
The Nationals face off against the Cardinals again on Monday, when Washington lefty ace Jordan Zimmermann will face Cardinals southpaw Jaime Garcia in St. Louis.
Credits: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson