Nationals start ugly, finish strong in 14-6 win over Cardinals

It certainly wasn’t easy on the eyes, unless your eyes were closed when they committed four errors and when they squandered a number of opportunities with men in scoring position. But sometimes you just gotta win ugly, and the Nationals won’t be apologizing for the lack of style points they displayed tonight in beating the Cardinals 14-6 to snap a two-game losing streak.

Especially given how well they finished.

Clutch hits by Stephen Drew, Matt Wieters and Adam Eaton provided the offense necessary to overcome a flurry of early-game mistakes, and the unlikely bullpen trio of Matt Albers, Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley churned out four scoreless innings in relief of Tanner Roark to seal the victory.

Though they wound up leading by a staggering nine runs in the ninth, manager Dusty Baker already had setup man Kelley warming when his team was ahead by only two runs moments earlier, not designated closer Blake Treinen. Treinen has not pitched since Friday in Philadelphia, but that was his fourth appearance in five days and included the surrendering of a two-run homer.

Stephen-Drew-white-close-bat.pngKelley, who last pitched during Saturday’s blowout loss, closed out a game in which the Nationals scored 11 unanswered runs until Jedd Gyorko’s garbage time homer in the ninth.

The unsung hero was Albers, who in his first appearance of the season retired six of the seven batters he faced to post zeroes in both the sixth and seventh innings and serve as a bridge from Roark to the back end of Baker’s bullpen.

Roark needed 104 pitches to complete five innings, but that number would have been dramatically reduced had he received any help from the guys directly behind him. All four starting infielders were charged with errors in the first six innings of this game, and that didn’t include a couple more plays that could’ve been made but weren’t ruled errors.

Roark wound up allowing five runs (three earned), his evening coming to an end after a legitimately superb play by Drew, who dove to his right to start a 6-4-3 double play that quashed a fifth-inning rally (though it required replay review to overturn first base umpire Jim Reynolds’ initial safe call).

That wouldn’t normally be enough to earn the win, but Roark actually found himself in that position after his teammates stormed back to take the lead in the bottom of the inning. Drew’s RBI double, Wieters’ RBI single and Eaton’s sacrifice fly brought home three runs in the frame, all charged to Adam Wainwright.

The Nationals kept giving themselves chances against Wainwright and the St. Louis pitching staff. They didn’t take advantage of the majority of those chances, but they had so many that the simple conversation of a handful of them was enough to score seven runs through six innings.

At that point, the Nats had a staggering 18 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. They went 6-for-15 with two walks and a sac fly, enough production to get the job done.

Eaton helped lead the way with three hits and three RBIs from the leadoff position. Bryce Harper had four hits (one of them on a drag bunt) and walked twice. Drew had three hits and drove in four runs. Ryan Zimmerman had three hits to raise his batting average to .400. Wieters and Jayson Werth each had two hits. Daniel Murphy’s sixth-inning single extended his season-opening hit streak to seven games.

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