While the Washington Nationals are coming off a frustrating loss, how they feel surely pales in comparison to what they went through in October.
In a rematch of their 2012 NL division series, Washington tries to get some revenge against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a three-game set Monday night.
The Nationals (10-8) led 6-0 after three innings and were one strike away from the NLCS. However, Drew Storen gave up a tie-breaking two-run single to Pete Kozma as St. Louis (10-8) stormed back from two down in the ninth inning to win 9-7 in Game 5.
That loss didn't appear to have any lasting effect on Washington, which jumped out to a fast start by opening 7-2. The Nationals, though, have since dropped six of nine, including two of three to the New York Mets over the weekend. They were limited to four singles in a 2-0 loss Sunday.
"We're OK. It's early. We are a good ball club. We're going home. We'll bounce back. But we definitely let this one get away from us," Werth said. "I couldn't tell you what our record is. Things could be a lot worse. We're all right. We are a good team. We'll get it together. We have too much talent. We'll be all right."
The Nationals could have a hard time bouncing back against highly touted Cardinals starter Shelby Miller (2-1, 1.96 ERA), who's struck out 18 over his first three starts spanning 18 1-3 innings. The right-hander gave up two runs over six innings in a 5-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
"You've got to tip your hat to Miller," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told MLB's official website. "You saw why the numbers are what they are. We thought we had him in a place where we might be able to make him move, and he collected himself."
The Nationals' Dan Haren (1-2, 8.10 ERA) can't seem to get on track. He gave up seven runs - three earned - in 4 1-3 innings of an 8-2 loss at Miami on Tuesday.
"I feel good, so it's just a matter of translating good numbers out there," said Haren, against whom opponents are batting .388. "Baseball is a crazy game. As bad as it is going now, it can change in an instant. I just have to remain positive."
Haren, who began his career in St. Louis, is 4-0 with a 3.65 ERA in five career starts against the Cardinals.
Carlos Beltran stayed hot with two hits Sunday but saw his three-game home run streak come to an end. He's batted .438 over the last four games.
Matt Holliday figures to be back in the lineup after getting the night off Sunday. The slugging left fielder is a career .328 hitter versus Washington in the regular season.
The Cardinals have been outscored 74-31 in dropping eight of nine regular-season matchups at Washington.
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|March 24, 2013||Rafael Furcal||15-Day DL||Right elbow surgery - out for season|
|March 23, 2013||David Freese||15-Day DL||Strained lower back|
|March 23, 2013||David Freese||15-Day DL||Strained lower back|
|March 22, 2013||Jason Motte||15-Day DL||Strained right elbow|
|March 07, 2013||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Right elbow surgery - out for season|
|February 22, 2013||Chris Carpenter||60-Day DL||Nerve irritation, right shoulder|
|April 18, 2013||Ryan Zimmerman||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|April 16, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Flu-like symptoms|
|April 16, 2013||Denard Span||Day-to-Day||Flu-like symptoms|
|April 14, 2013||Wilson Ramos||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|March 22, 2013||Christian Garcia||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm tendon|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The setting and the situation were so similar, Pete 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.
With two runners on, No. 8 hitter Kozma came to bat for St. Louis in a tight game against the Washington Nationals , the Cardinals' pitcher on deck. When that happened the last time these teams played a game that counted, it was Oct. 12, in Game 5 of an NL division series, and Washington pitched to Kozma, who delivered a go-ahead, two-run single.
On Monday night, the Nationals chose to intentionally walk Kozma - something some fans surely wished the Nationals had done the other time - and reliever Craig Stammen struck out Shelby Miller to end the inning. Earlier in the sixth, Yadier Molina drove in the tiebreaking run for St. Louis, backing Miller's strong start, and the Cardinals beat the Nationals 3-2.
"Before the game, I got to thinking about it a little bit here and there," Kozma said.
He was booed during pregame introductions 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 Allen Craig 's double off the wall for a 2-0 lead.
When Kozma came up for the final time Monday, in the ninth, he was the first batter faced by - guess who? - Drew Storen , who was Washington's closer on Oct. 12. The Nationals led 6-0 after three innings that day, and were still ahead 7-5 with two outs in the top of the ninth, before Storen gave up a tying hit to Daniel Descalso and Kozma's hit that made it 9-7 and ended the Nationals' season.
After striking out Kozma on Monday, Storen got pinch-hitter Descalso to pop out to third base.
"All of that did flash before my mind when it was all coming up," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
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."
Miller (3-1) struck out eight in 6 2-3 innings, giving up two runs and four hits.
"He's got a different look than the majority of the guys we have on our staff, and a lot of other guys in the league. He's keeping people off balance with that," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
"You can't go out there and try and teach somebody deception, necessarily," Matheny added. "The ball just comes out of his hand a little different."
Edward Mujica pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save, and with Mitchell Boggs having blown two of four save chances, Matheny said he'll figure out his bullpen roles game by game.
All the Cardinals' runs came against Dan Haren (1-3), who allowed six hits in 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. Haren then walked David Freese , loading the bases with no outs, and was done.
In came righty reliever Craig Stammen , who got Jon Jay to ground into a 3-2-3 double play before the walk to Kozma and strikeout of Miller.
Miller departed after walking Kurt Suzuki to put two on with two outs in the seventh. Joe Kelly came on to face pinch-hitter Chad Tracy , who sent a sinking shot to right-center but Jay raced over to make a nice grab.
The Nationals didn't score against relievers Trevor Rosenthal or Mujica, either, and now have lost seven of their last 10 games, averaging only 3.3 runs in that span.
"We're just in a rut," Washington first baseman Adam 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."
NOTES: Cardinals 1B Matt Adams was removed from the lineup after feeling soreness in his right side during batting practice. ... The Cardinals have alternated wins and losses over their last nine games. ... Washington closer Rafael Soriano was away from the team because his wife gave birth. ... Washington 3B Anthony Rendon , called up from Double-A Harrisburg over the weekend to fill in while Ryan Zimmerman is on the DL, had his first major league hit and RBI - doubling to right-center to make it 2-all in the fourth.