"In that situation, Escobar took a chance of getting the fastball and got it and hit it to his pull side," manager Matt Williams said. "[He] got it elevated and pulled it over the fence. He just understands situations. It's calm, it's collected. He is a good hitter, he's a good fielder, he does a lot of things well for us."
Escobar, who was playing in his first game since he strained his left groin last Friday, said he simply was trying to be aggressive when he came to the plate.
"I can catch the pitch that I want and win the game," said Escobar, who now has three career walk-off hits.
Villanueva was making just his second appearance of the year and first in nine days. The Cardinals' slew of tight games has left him a non-factor since he appeared in an extra-inning win the first week of the season.
"It's my job to stay ready," Villanueva said. "I felt fine. It was a pitch that went back over the plate, and in that kind of game, the first guy to make a mistake pays for it. That's really it. He ambushed me, and here we are."
The Nationals have won five out of their last six games, while the Cardinals' winning streak ended at five games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Bryce comes through: The Nationals plated their first run in the third inning when Bryce Harper singled to left field to score Ian Desmond. Harper is now tied for second on the team with eight RBIs.
A four-hit Holliday: Matt Holliday extended his hitting streak to 12 and reached base in all five plate appearances, including a ninth-inning at-bat in which he singled home the tying run against Nationals closer Drew Storen. Matt Carpenter scored from third after leading off the inning with a single and twice advancing on wild pitches. The run scored on the team's 12th hit of the night and after the Cardinals had stranded 12 and gone hitless in their first nine at-bats with a runner in scoring position.
"This group doesn't quit," Holliday said. "We were down a run, but we felt like we had a chance. We've had some success off Storen in the past. We were confident that we could scratch a run, maybe two. We had some opportunities. We just weren't able to cash them in." More >
Jay's diving catch:Jon Jay sent the game into extra innings and bailed out a few teammates with a diving catch to end the ninth with the bases full. Matt Belisle had walked two with one out, and Matt Adams' fumble in the field had allowed another to reach. Jordan Walden struck out Desmond and then garnered the game-saving assist on Jay's sensational grab of Jayson Werth's short liner to center.
"In that situation, I want to make him beat us over the head," said Jay, who had another diving catch in the 10th. "In that situation, I didn't want a line drive [to drop]. I was going to make him beat us to the biggest part of the field." More >
Gio gets out of jams: The Cardinals had Gio Gonzalez, who allowed eight hits and fanned four over six scoreless frames, on the ropes, but the left-hander managed to get out of trouble. In the fifth inning, for example, St. Louis had the bases loaded with two outs, but Jay grounded out to end the inning.
"He gave us a chance to win and he left the game with the lead," Williams said.
Storen blows it: Storen blew his first save of the season by allowing the game-tying single to Holliday in the ninth inning.
"I don't know if he was as sharp as he wanted to be, " Williams said about Storen. "He was throwing strikes, but not necessarily where he wanted to. He pulled a couple of breaking balls in the dirt. All in all, not as sharp as he would [have liked] to be."
"It was odd. You look up there and saw how many hits we had. Usually when that happens, you're thinking we've had so many good opportunities. It just wasn't there." -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, on his club leaving 13 on base but also only advancing two runners as far as third
Though Lance Lynn did not factor into the decision, he continued the Cardinals' run of strong starting pitching to begin this season. The Cardinals now have 10 quality starts through 12 games, doing so for the first time since 1944. It has only happened six times in franchise history. The Padres, with 14, is the only Major League team currently with more, though they've also played three more games. In allowing one run, Lynn lowered the rotation's ERA to 1.88.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: John Lackey will make his third start of the season when the Cardinals face the Nationals again on Wednesday. Adams is expected back in the starting lineup at first base with the Nationals sending right-hander Doug Fister to the mound.
Nationals: Fister will face the Cardinals for the second time in his career. In his only start, Fister allowed four runs in six innings.