Nationals bust out early, but drop slugfest late

Nationals bust out early, but drop slugfest late

Nationals bust out early, but drop slugfest late
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals and Cardinals found themselves in a slugfest on Saturday afternoon. When it was over, it was David Freese who put St. Louis over the top.

His single in the top of the ninth inning helped the Cardinals defeat the Nationals, 10-9, at Nationals Park. The loss broke Washington's modest three-game winning streak and dropped its record to 80-52.

The game was tied at 9 when St. Louis took the lead against reliever Drew Storen, who had a problem holding the runner. Allen Craig led off with a single and then easily stole second base with Freese at the plate.

According to manager Davey Johnson, Storen is too slow to the plate when holding runners. Storen has to find a way to be much quicker in his delivery.

"He was slow to the plate last year, but this year -- boy, he's very deliberate," Johnson said. "I think he's over two seconds on some of those deliveries. That cost him tonight. He's got to quicken up just a little bit. With that move, anybody can steal. It seems to me last year, he was 1.5 [seconds]. I saw a couple of them today over two seconds."

Storen said he was concentrating on making quality pitches and needs to adjust when throwing to the plate.

"That's something I need to work on," Storen said. "I guess I need to make an adjustment for next time. That's part of the game, that's part of pitching. You've just got to make the adjustment."

Even Craig noticed that Storen was not concerned about him at first base.

"I just waited for the green light," Craig said. "He was being slow to the plate, so it was an opportunity to take the base and get in scoring position. I think in that situation he's pretty focused on the hitter. That's a gamble at that point in the at-bat. But it was a point where we were willing to gamble. I felt confident I could take it."

About a minute later, Freese followed and singled to left field on a 2-2 pitch, scoring Craig.

"I think the way we were down early, you try to turn the page from the last few days," Freese said. "But the way it started out, it's tough not to say, 'Here we go again.' But that's not this team. We kept battling, found a way against a very good pitching staff and found a way to win tonight."

Entering Saturday's action, right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was among the National League leaders in ERA. It was clearly Zimmermann's worst outing of the season, allowing eight runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings. It was the first time the right-hander had allowed more than six runs in a start.

He had a 6-2 lead after two innings, but the Cardinals came back and had an 8-6 lead after four-plus innings. Matt Carpenter highlighted the scoring with a three-run double.

"I left a few balls over the middle," Zimmermann said. "They hit a couple of home runs. I tried to throw a back-foot slider and I let it up a little bit and it was a double [to Carpenter] and that sums up my day."

In his last three starts, Zimmermann has allowed 15 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings. The right-hander, who experienced shoulder soreness a month ago, said his shoulder is fine.

"I felt the way I normally feel," Zimmermann said. "The offense did a great job. You have to tip your cap to those guys. They give you six runs and you do all you can to keep the team in the game and you can't hold it down. This loss is totally my fault."

But Washington came back and took the lead against pitchers Kyle Lohse, who started the game, Marc Rzepczynski and Fernando Salas.

With Lohse on the mound in the sixth, Danny Espinosa led off and hit a home run, his 15th of the season. Lohse was able to get two quick outs, but Jayson Werth doubled and Lohse left the game in favor of the left-handed Rzepczynski, who walked Bryce Harper.

In came Salas, who allowed a single to right by Ryan Zimmerman. Werth scored easily, while Harper scored all the way from first on the throw from Craig in right field.

"Once I saw the ball go to the plate instead of third base, I took third. .... [Cards catcher Yadier Molina] got back and I tried to slide in as hard as I could and make something happen," Harper said.

Craig Stammen and Ryan Mattheus were able to hold the Cardinals until the eighth inning, when Sean Burnett entered the game. St. Louis tied the game when Carlos Beltran drove in Shane Robinson with a single to center to make it 9-9.

To Johnson, the key of that inning was the leadoff walk to Robinson.

"In a close ballgame, you can't be giving free passes to the leadoff hitter," Johnson said.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for 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.