(AP) — 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.
Leadoff hitter Denard Span is batting .174 in his last six games while Jayson Werth has gone 2 for 14 in the last four.
“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.
St. Louis split a four-game series at Philadelphia that ended Sunday, falling 7-3 in the finale. Jake Westbrook threw six-plus strong innings but Mitchell Boggs gave up four runs in the eighth.
“He’s a big part of our club. He’ll get over it,” said manager Mike Matheny, whose bullpen has compiled a major league-worst 5.69 ERA. “I don’t see it as mechanical so much as it is about confidence.”
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.