WASHINGTON -- In a game that featured five lead changes, a combined five errors and 29 hits, the Nationals eventually broke the game open with a seven-run eighth inning to cruise to a 14-6 victory over the Cardinals in Monday night's series opener at Nationals Park.
Bryce Harper reached base in all six of his plate appearances to go 4-for-4 with two walks, Adam Eaton collected three hits and drove in two runs and Stephen Drew went 3-for-4 with four RBIs as Washington collected 19 hits in an offensive breakout to overcome errors by all four of their starting infielders.
"We just kept scoring," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "It was kind of an ugly game, but when you score, it can cure most of the ills."
The Cardinals capitalized on the Nats' early mistakes and two of their five runs against right-hander Tanner Roark were unearned. Roark battled through his entire outing, which lasted five innings and 104 pitches. After a sloppy start through the first half of the game, the Nats got some strong defense of their own. Drew, who is filling in at shortstop for the injured Trea Turner, made a diving stop to escape a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning.
But each time St. Louis moved ahead, right-hander Adam Wainwright was unable to hold the lead. He began the fifth inning leading 5-3, but allowed three consecutive hits that tied the game and ended his night. Wainwright was eventually charged with six runs -- five earned after an errant throw from Kolten Wong eventually led to a run -- on 11 hits in four innings.
"I'm working too hard out there," Wainwright said. "I have good stuff. I need to trust it and get ahead in counts better and just attack more."
Then, the Nats broke the game open for 11 unanswered runs, most of which came at the expense of the Cardinals' bullpen. Their relievers were charged with eight runs to increase their ERA to 8.86 on the year.
"It's just early, but we make a big deal of every game," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, whose club's sloppy start has attributed to five losses in seven games to start the season . "I'm not going to minimize anything. [Losing] is a big deal to them, every game. Every game they go out and don't do what they want to do, we have to get them there. Help them get fixed. Fast."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Breaking the game open: Another implosion by the Cardinals' bullpen turned what was a two-run deficit into a nine-run hole as the Nationals sent 11 batters to the plate in the eighth. A two-run double by Drew chased lefty Kevin Siegrist from the game. Two batters later, pinch-hitter Adam Lind delivered a bases-loaded double to drive in two more. Harper capped the fruitful frame with a two-run single off Jonathan Broxton, who allowed three runs. Siegrist was charged with four.
"There's no excuse for what happened tonight," Siegrist said. "You have to finish innings. That's my responsibility."
"We haven't played great ball since the first day. We've had a bad first week. Luckily, we have a lot more weeks coming up where we're planning to play a lot of good baseball. It's unfortunate. We hate starting the season off like this. Our fans want to see better, I'm sure. And we expect better out of ourselves, too. We'll be better." -- Wainwright
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
This was career win No. 1,770 for Nationals manager Dusty Baker, moving ahead of Jim Leyland for 16th place on MLB's all-time wins list. Baker is second among active managers behind Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who is 15th with 1,791 wins.
"Jim Leyland's a good friend of mine," Baker said. "I've always been a good friend of his on and off the field. I don't know if Jim wanted me to pass him the last couple days. That just means I've been around a long time and had a relative amount of success. But I've got some more work to do."
ROSENTHAL STRONG IN RETURN
Activated from the 10-day disabled list before the game, Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal showed no lingering effects from the right lat strain that sidelined him out of Spring Training. Rosenthal struck out the side and, according to Statcast™, averaged 98.4 mph on the 12 fastballs he threw during his perfect seventh-inning appearance.
"I felt pretty good," Rosenthal said afterward. "I'll continue to hopefully get in a rhythm and build off of that. I definitely want to fine-tune some things. But I think it was a good first step. It's good to be back out there."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Nationals garnered momentum from an overturned call in the fifth inning that provided them with an inning-ending double play. On a play that began with a spectacular stop by Drew, Cardinals infielder Jhonny Peralta was ruled safe at first. That call left the Cardinals with runners on the corners and two out. After a one-minute, 10-second review, however, a force out was changed to a double play.
"Play of the game," Roark said.
In the bottom of the fifth, Drew came through with a game-tying, two-run double that set the stage for the Nationals' eventual outburst.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: After making two starts against the Nationals during Spring Training, right-hander Lance Lynn will face them again in Tuesday's game at Washington. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT. Lynn held the Nationals to one run over six innings in Grapefruit League play.
Nationals: Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will take the mound for the Nationals for the second game of this series against the Cardinals at Nationals Park. Gonzalez struck out seven in six shutout innings in his season debut against the Marlins.