Nationals rally to Game 1 victory
ST. LOUIS — Rookies in the postseason, the Washington Nationals played like poised veterans.
The Nationals escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning, Tyler Moore blooped a two-out, two-run single in the eighth and Washington beat the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, 3-2, on Sunday in an NL Division Series opener.
The Nationals have just four players with postseason experience, but they have the lead.
“Not many people have probably watched too many Nationals games, but we have a great starting rotation and a great bullpen,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “They keep us in the ballgame.”
The Nationals, who had never come close to making the playoffs since moving from Montreal for the 2005 season, overcame a wild start by 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez. They limited the Cardinals to three hits.
“All the credit in the world goes to the bullpen,” Gonzalez said. “I've been saying it all year: The reason why we've been so successful is these guys come in and shut it down.”
Rookie Ryan Mattheus needed two pitches to bail out the Nationals in the seventh with St. Louis ahead, 2-1. Moore, another rookie, put them ahead, Tyler Clippard worked around an error in the eighth and Drew Storen saved it with a 1-2-3 ninth.
The Nationals led the majors with 98 wins and brought postseason baseball to Washington for the first time since 1933. The Nats will go for a 2-0 series lead Monday.
The Cardinals made it to the division series by beating Atlanta in the wild-card matchup Friday. But St. Louis wasted a 10-strikeout gem by Wainwright.
Mattheus defused a bases-loaded, none-out threat in the seventh, getting cleanup man Allen Craig to ground into a forceout at the plate and then inducing a double-play grounder by Yadier Molina.
Rookie shortstop Pete Kozma misplayed Michael Morse's grounder for an error to open the eighth. Desmond followed with a single off Mitchell Boggs, putting runners at the corners.
Danny Espinosa sacrificed, leaving runners at second and third, and Kurt Suzuki struck out. The Nationals sent up Chad Tracy to pinch-hit, the Cardinals switched to lefty Marc Rzepczynski and Washington subbed in Moore.