WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — In the seventh inning, Washington Nationals pinch-hitter Chad Tracy came up with two on and two outs and hit a sinking liner that St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay made a nice play to snag.
In the eighth, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond both came up with two on, and neither produced the key hit the Nationals needed.
And in the ninth, it was a quick 1-2-3, wrapping up the Nationals’ 3-2 loss to the Cardinals on Monday night. The Nationals aren’t scoring much these days, and they’re not winning a whole lot, either: They have lost seven of their last 10 games, averaging 3.3 runs in that span.
“We’re just in a rut,” LaRoche said. “Lot of quick innings. Not a ton of baserunners. And five, six guys that aren’t swinging the bat real good. When it rains, it pours.”
Yadier Molina drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning, Allen Craig delivered a two-run double in the third, and Cardinals starter Shelby Miller (3-1) struck out eight in 6 2-3 innings. He only allowed four hits.
All the Cardinals’ runs came against Dan Haren (1-3) in his five-plus innings.
“I gave us a chance until the fifth,” Haren said. “Then I got into a mess.”
In a span of three pitches. Haren plunked the inning’s first batter, Matt Holliday, and then served up first-pitch singles to Carlos Beltran and Molina, putting St. Louis ahead 3-2.
The last time these teams played in Washington was Oct. 12, in Game 5 of an NL division series, when the Nationals led 6-0 after three innings and were still ahead 7-5 with two outs in the top of the ninth. But with then-closer Drew Storen on the mound, Washington allowed St. Louis to rally for four runs and a 9-7 victory that ended the Nationals’ season.
The last two runs scored on a hit by Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, who was booed during pregame introductions Monday and again when his name was announced before his first plate appearance, in the third inning.
He singled to right in that at-bat, the ball landing not too far from where his go-ahead hit landed in October. This time, it was part of a two-run inning, with Kozma and Matt Carpenter coming home on Craig’s double off the wall for a 2-0 lead.
The setting and the situation were so similar, Kozma couldn’t help but recall what happened six months ago.
“I can think of one game,” he said, more mischief in his words than in his deadpan facial expression.
“Before the game, I got to thinking about it a little bit here and there.”
Storen appeared in Monday’s game, too, coming in to throw the ninth with Washington down by a run. And wouldn’t you know it? The leadoff hitter was Kozma, although this time he struck out looking. Next up for Storen was pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso, whose two-run hit tied Game 5. Storen got him to pop out to third Monday, part of a 1-2-3 inning.
Storen, by the way, said October, the Cardinals and Kozma were not in his thoughts at all.
“If it was,” he said, “I shouldn’t be out there.”
Jayson Werth led off the Washington fourth by reaching when Kozma went deep into the hole and made a leaping throw across his body that Craig bobbled at first base. Werth was credited with a hit. He came around to score and make it 2-1 on Desmond’s double over Jay’s head.
Anthony Rendon, called up from Double-A Harrisburg over the weekend to fill in while third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is on the disabled list, followed with his first major league hit and RBI — doubling to right-center on a 3-2 fastball. That brought around Desmond, making it 2-all.
Rendon, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 draft, made his debut for the Nationals on Sunday at the New York Mets, going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and an error. He joked before Monday’s game: “I don’t think you can get any worse; I don’t think you can go negative in the batting average.”
His parents had tried to travel from Houston to New York for his first game, but a problem with the airline scuttled those plans. Rendon said they made it to Washington on Sunday night and were going to be at Nationals Park, along with his girlfriend, his brother and a buddy.
“That’s the one thing you’re going to cherish for the rest of your life,” Rendon said of his initial big league hit. “You don’t get another one. The second one doesn’t count as much as the first one.”
NOTES: Nationals C Wilson Ramos, on the DL since April 14 with an injured left hamstring, is expected to be back when his required 15 days away are up. Manager Davey Johnson said Ramos probably will go to extended spring training in Viera, Fla., to get some at-bats before returning to the club. … Washington closer Rafael Soriano was away from the team because his wife gave birth. … Edward Mujica pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save. … The Cardinals have alternated wins and losses over their last nine games.
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