ST. LOUIS -- Jason Heyward smashed a two-run double off of the left-field wall to highlight a five-run seventh as the Cardinals beat the Nationals, 8-5, on Monday night at Busch Stadium. With the win, the Cards extended their lead in the National League Central to 5 games, while Nats fell to 6 1/2 back in the NL East.
The outburst erased a strong outing by Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez. The left-hander gave up three runs and four hits in the fourth, but allowed just one hit and one walk in his other five innings, while striking out four.
Cardinals starter John Lackey struggled with his control, throwing 63 strikes out of 105 pitches during six innings. Lackey allowed two runs, one earned, struck out eight and walked four.
"I think he was really close on a lot of pitches," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I think biting just off the edges off whatever the strike zone was tonight. I think that didn't help him. He kept us in the game. That's what we ask of our starters. I thought his stuff was pretty good with a lot of near misses."
Both bullpens were battered but factored into the decision. Cardinals lefty Kevin Siegrist improved to 6-1 even though he gave up three runs, while Nationals righty Casey Janssen fell to 1-3 after giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning. Trevor Rosenthal picked up save No. 42 after coming off the paternity leave list.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Singles night: The Cardinals strung four consecutive singles together in the fourth to score their first three runs. Yadier Molina, Wong and Reynolds each had RBIs during the rally and 12 of the Cardinals' 13 total hits were singles.
"We've had guys that we've had to replace," Heyward said. "The guys that have stepped in and have played a lot more for them, I feel like they have gotten more comfortable. But, as a group, we're all just gelling and trying to feed off that."
Zimmerman puts Washington ahead: With Washington down, 3-2, in the seventh, Ryan Zimmerman swung at a 3-1 pitch from Siegrist and hit a monster three-run shot over the center-field wall to give the Nats. It was Zimmerman's 13th home run and left him a triple shy of the cycle.
"He has good timing, good rhythm. He came through with a big hit for us tonight. It just wasn't enough. He is seeing the ball well," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. More >
Bullpen blows lead: In the bottom of the seventh inning, Janssen blew a 5-3 lead by throwing 26 pitches and allowing four runs in two-thirds of an inning. Felipe Rivero didn't help matters either by allowing a run on two hits. More >
Scoring in bunches: The Cardinals have scored 57 runs in their last eight games and have been benefiting from big innings. With their three-run fourth and five-run seventh, the Cardinals have scored at least three runs in one inning in four consecutive games.
"Just kind of grind at-bats, put together tough at-bats, next thing you know we're chipping away and making it happen, that's the kind of club we can be," Matheny said. "I also think we'll drive the ball at times. I think we still got more in the tank offensively, and I know our guys believe that, too." More >
Baserunning blunder: The Nationals had runners on first and second with one out in the ninth inning when closer Rosenthal threw a wild pitch. With his head down, Anthony Rendon tried to run to second base without realizing that Jayson Werth started toward third but then stopped. Rendon found himself in a rundown and was tagged out by catcher Molina.
Williams felt Rendon should have looked at the runner ahead of him.
"[Rendon] sees the ball go by. At second base, you are blocked. You don't necessarily see it. He just has to keep his head on that one," Williams said.
"I haven't seen anybody do that. I was thinking about that myself, what do you do? I'm giving the ball up to first base like right away and let him run somebody down. Especially if you're not a speedster, but Yadi steals bases, so I guess he can do that." -- Matheny, on Molina's unassisted putout of Rendon in the ninth
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The Cardinals improved to a Major League-best 47-19 at home, and have beaten the Nationals eight consecutive times at Busch Stadium.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
After Moss singled to start the bottom of the eighth inning, Peter Bourjos hit into a fielder's choice at second base. But Williams believed the Nationals turned two on the play, and the safe call at first was overturned for a double play.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: Right-hander Joe Ross will make the start against the Cardinals, which starts at 8:15 p.m. ET. Ross has arguably been Washington's most consistent pitcher. In his last two starts, Ross has allowed one earned run in 13 innings with 11 strikeouts. At the rate he is going, Ross might not be shut down after all, according to manager Matt Williams.
Cardinals: Lefty Marco Gonzales, ranked No. 4 among Cardinals prospects, per MLB.com, will make his first start of the season and his first appearance against the Nationals on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. CT. Gonzales was 4-2 with a 4.15 ERA in 10 games, including five starts, in 2014.
Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com. Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.