NL Division Series Game One: Nationals 3, Cardinals 2

The Washington Nationals beat the St Louis Cardinals 3-2 in game one of the NL Division Series, taking a 1-0 series lead. The way the game began, you never would have imagined that the Cardinals would score just two runs, but that's exactly what happened.

Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez was extremely wild in the early going, walking five batters in the first two innings and putting two Cardinals runs on the board as a result. Gonzalez didn't throw a first pich strike until the 11th batter of the game, and the Cardinals really should have gotten more runs on the board. However, in those first two innings, they didn't record a hit. Their first run came after a Gonzalez wild pitch brought home Yadier Molina, and their second run came on a Jon Jay sacrifice fly. Gonzalez would finish his day with seven walks in five innings…but he allowed just the pair of runs on one hit.

The Cardinals also blew a prime scoring opportunity in the seventh inning. Holding a 2-1 lead, Jay reached on an error by Adam LaRoche, and pitcher Craig Stammen allowed a single to Carlos Beltran to put men on first and second. Stammen proceeded to plunk Matt Holliday to load the bases for Allen Craig, and his day was done. Ryan Mattheus came in to relieve him, and got out of the inning unscathed on two pitches, first forcing Allen Craig to ground into a 6-2 putout, and then getting a 5-4-3 double play from Molina to end the inning. St Louis finished the day 0/8 with runners in scoring position, and stranded ten baserunners.

Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright thoroughly outdueled Gonzalez, throwing 5 2/3 innings and allowing one run on six hits, walking three and striking out ten. The one Nationals run that Wainwright allowed came in the second went Kurt Suzuki singled in LaRoche. But again, that inning was a missed opportunity for Washington, who came away with one run despite two hits and two walks in the inning.

The Nationals would take the lead in the eighth when Washington manager Davey Johnson, who's been around the block a time or two, completely outmanaged novice Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. After Michael Morse reached on a Pete Kozma error and Ian Desmond singled to put men on the corners, Johnson called for a sacrifice bunt (that clearly wasn't a squeeze attempt) that was lambasted from the moment it was called (with good reason). Kurt Suzuki struck out to make the second out, and Johnson brought in Chad Tracy to pinch hit for Mattheus. Matheny then went to the lone lefty in his bullpen, Mark Rzepczynski, to create the favorable matchup with Tracy. The entire stadium knew that Johnson would then call Tracy back (which he did), and Rzepczynski then instead faced the right-handed Tyler Moore. With the platoon advantage destroyed for the Cardinals, Moore singled to right to bring home the pair of runners and put Washington on top for good.

Matheny's bizarre decision to go with Rzepczynski just for the matchup, as opposed to staying with a superior Mitchell Boggs (who had only thrown 11 pitches), emphasized his old school management style…and it bit him right in the ass.

Game two of this series will be on Monday at 4:37 PM, meaning that the infamous shadows will again likely come into play. Jordan Zimmermann will start for Washington against Jaime Garcia for the Cardinals. After the Cardinals could only put two runs on the board despite Gonzalez doing his best Rick Ankiel imperssion, things bode well for Zimmermann, who has far superior control in comparison to Gonzalez (and has only walked as many as four hitters in a game in just three of his 81 caeer starts).

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.