It was the last thing the Nationals expected from Jordan Zimmermann.
Their most consistent pitcher all season finally had one of those days all pitchers dread, and the powerful St. Louis Cardinals, the best offensive team in the National League, took full advantage of it at Nationals Park on Saturday afternoon in a wild 10-9 victory over Washington.
Zimmermann gave up a pair of two-run home runs to David Freese and Matt Holliday and a three-run double to rookie Matt Carpenter. By the time he was knocked from the hill just 32Ú3 innings into the contest he had allowed seven earned runs. That became eight when reliever Craig Stammen allowed an inherited runner to score off an Allen Craig single. It was the first time in Zimmermann's career he had allowed that many runs in a game.
"I just left a few balls over the middle and they hit a few home runs," Zimmermann said. "With the bases loaded, two outs there and I threw [Carpenter[ what was trying to be a back-foot slider and left it up a little bit and it was a double. That kind of summed up my day."
Carpenter's extra-base hit still wasn't enough for the Cardinals on a day when Kyle Lohse, their own starter, had his struggles, too. Washington took a 9-8 lead in the sixth inning when two runners scored on a Ryan Zimmerman single to right field.
But in the end pinch hitter Carlos Beltran tied the game with a single in the eighth inning off reliever Sean Burnett and Freese followed with the eventual game-winning hit in the ninth off Drew Storen.
"That was a wild one," Nats outfielder Jayson Werth said. "Both teams battled right to the end and we just came up short. We played a good game. What are you going to do?"
St. Louis (72-61) kept hold of the second wild card spot in the National League, while the Nats (80-52) had a three-game winning streak snapped. But first-place Washington did receive some good news when second-place Atlanta lost to Philadelphia 5-1. The lead in the NL East remains at 6? games with just 30 to play.
"This is just another game. The important thing is we took a game off the calendar," Werth said. "Atlanta lost so nothing changes. We got a chance to win the series [Sunday].
Freese had earlier homered off Zimmermann in the third inning to cut a 4-0 lead to 4-2. The Cardinals had fallen behind 6-2 after an Adam LaRoche homer when Holliday again answered another in the third inning. Zimmermann's command was off, too, and he hit two batters in the fourth inning alone. Those came after a leadoff double by Freese and set up Carpenter's blast off the base of the wall in right field. All three runners scored to put St. Louis up 7-6. Craig's RBI hit off Stammen made it 8-6.
But after a Danny Espinosa homer to right field in the sixth and Ryan Zimmerman's hit later in that frame, the Cardinals still needed more. A leadoff walk to Shane Robinson proved costly for Burnett in the eighth. Robinson was sacrificed to second base and then scored on Beltran's single to center. In the ninth Storen allowed a leadoff single to Craig, who then stole second and scored on Freese's base hit to left. St. Louis closer Jason Motte retired Washington in order in the ninth inning to secure the victory for his club.
"[St. Louis is] an awful good hitting lineup," Johnson said. "Our pitchers have been holding them down and they kind of broke out. But we'll get them [Sunday]."