ST. LOUIS -- For the second consecutive game, the Nationals' bullpen was unable to contain the Cardinals. Tuesday night, the struggles led to an 8-5 walk-off loss at Busch Stadium.
With the Nationals leading, 5-3, in the eighth inning, the Cardinals had runners on first and second and no outs, when Greg Garcia bunted toward reliever Drew Storen, who tried to get the forceout at third base. But the ball went past third baseman Yunel Escobar for an error, allowing Tommy Pham to score and make it a one-run game.
The throw from Storen wasn't offline, and it appeared Escobar may have had a chance to catch the ball.
"It's a judgement call," Storen said. "You see how it comes off the bat. Lobby [catcher Jose Lobaton] said three. So you just turn and go. I just turned and put it over the bag. I didn't try to gun it over there too much. I don't know. I'm on the other side of that."
Two batters later, the bases were loaded with no outs when Stephen Piscotty hit into a double play, scoring Brandon Moss to tie the score at 5.
Right-hander Casey Janssen was given another chance to keep the Cardinals scoreless in the ninth, but he served up the game-winning three-run homer to Moss.
Like Monday night -- when he allowed four decisive runs in the seventh inning -- Janssen was a strike away from getting out of the inning. But he allowed a double to Cody Stanley and walked Pham to bring up Moss, who mashed a 1-0 cutter to center field.
Why wasn't Jonathan Papelbon used in the first two games of this series? Manager Matt Williams explained after Tuesday's game that he is with the team to close games.
On Monday, Janssen felt he made some good pitches, but Tuesday was a different story. The ball was up in the strike zone.
"I was one pitch away with the last two guys. I didn't finish them," Janssen said. "I would like to get those guys out, but I had the opportunity to be aggressive and I didn't get it done."
The loss kep the Nationals 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets in the National League East race. Time is running out, and the players know it.
"It's tough, because you run out of time, and it's tough, too, because they are frustrating losses," Storen said. "But you can't sit around and feel sorry for yourself. We'll show up tomorrow and get it done."