ST. LOUIS - Just to recap today’s ballgame for all those who were stuck in a cave somewhere all afternoon: National League Cy Young Award candidate Gio Gonzalez walked seven hitters, the Nationals struck out 13 times, left the bases loaded twice and made two errors in the final three innings.
Oh, yeah, and they won 3-2.
“I don’t really know how we won that game, to be honest,” reliever Craig Stammen said with a smile creeping onto his face. “But we pulled it out somehow. That’s kind of how the playoffs goes. You just kind of pull games out and to win here in St. Louis was pretty big. It lets us be able to relax a little bit tomorrow and play our game.”
Speaking of Stammen, he acknowledged after the game that he owes Ryan Mattheus a steak for getting out of the bases-loaded, no-out situation that Stammen left for his fellow reliever in the seventh inning.
“Unbelievable,” Stammen said. “Saved my tailbone pretty good. I was quite happy that he got out of that inning.”
Ian Desmond, who went 3-for-4, was asked whether he felt the Nats stole this game, given that Gonzalez didn’t have his A-game and the Nats squandered a few golden opportunities throughout.
“We’ve played good baseball all year long,” he said. “I don’t think we stole one. I think we earned one. We stayed in that game. We fought. We grinded our way, just like we have all year long. I definitely wouldn’t say we stole it.”
“That’s playoff baseball,” said Drew Storen, who earned his first career postseason save today. “Nothing goes to plan in the playoffs. The good teams are the ones that can handle it and really grind it out and get the victory. That’s what we expect. We don’t expect it to go by the book.”
Gonzalez’s outing certainly didn’t go by the book. He tied a career high with his seven walks, four of which came in the second inning, when he teetered on the edge before righting the ship. After giving up two runs in that second inning, however, he worked three scoreless frames to keep the Nats close.
“It felt like forever,” Gonzalez said of the second inning troubles. “I couldn’t get an out. You look at it for what it was - it could’ve got worse. Bases loaded, they had a big hitter up to bat, could’ve made the situation a lot worse than what it was.”
What went wrong?
“It was definitely not the situation,” he said. “I’ve had seven days off. You’ve got to make an adjustment. You’ve had plenty of time to rest. Too much rest can be dangerous for you, or not too much rest can be dangerous for you. You have to find your points. You have to make the adjustment. Obviously my stuff wasn’t there. That’s what a starting pitcher’s supposed to do, keep your team in the game and don’t let it blow out of proportion.”
The shadows creeping over home plate were a major issue for the hitters today, especially because they kept moving as the game went on, giving the batters a different look each time they stepped to the plate.
“When they’re throwing it, you don’t see spin real well,” Adam LaRoche said. “The ball looks dark, and you can’t pick up spin. If you’re not seeing that, it can be tough to read sliders and curveballs. It just makes it hard. But it’s the same for both teams, so we can’t complain.”
Jayson Werth had a really tough game offensively, going 1-for-5 with three strikeouts and seven runners left on base. But he had a huge catch in the sixth inning, robbing Daniel Descalso of a home run and keeping it a 2-1 game.
“I’ve never been one to take my offense out on my defense,” Werth said. “Obviously, the situation is pretty big here in the postseason. But I feel like I’m going to get some more chances. Those guys were pitching well today and you’ve got to tip your hat sometimes, but I feel good at the plate, I’ve felt good all year. I like where I’m at, I like where the team’s at. Just those things happen. Hopefully, I’ll get another chance to come through.”