Adam Wainwright tossed a two-hitter and reached base three times Thursday night against the Nationals.
The Nationals will beat the Cardinals again, maybe even this year.
It just might not seem like that after the Cardinals’ 8-0 victory Thursday night. The win was the Cardinals’ eighth straight over Washington stretching back to their incredible comeback in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. If one team really can "get in the heads" of another, the Nationals must be seeing little red birds in their nightmares.
In the opener of this four-game series at Nationals Park, Washington’s defense was embarrassingly bad, its offense was completely shut down by Adam Wainwright and the Nats were fortunate the final score wasn’t even more lopsided. Wainwright limited the Nationals to an infield single in the second and a two-out single in the ninth en route to his fourth two-hitter. He has never thrown a one-hitter.
Speaking of near no-hitters, guess who the Nationals have to contend with on Friday night? That would be Michael Wacha, whom they surely remember came within one out (and inch) of no-hitting them last September.
— Adam Wainwright. As dominant as was his 110-pitch effort on the mound, you know what he was talking about postgame. His offense. Wainwright doubled and singled to lift his batting average to .444. He also sacrificed successfully, walked, scored and drove in a run. Best of all, he didn’t strain his hamstring running on the bases.
— Extra outs. Shortstop Ian Desmond failed to handle a routine grounder by Matt Carpenter on the first play of the game and the Nationals’ defense went downhill from there. The Nats were charged with four errors and made at least that many shoddy plays, the most embarrassing of which helped blow open the game for St. Louis.
The bases were loaded and two were out in the sixth when reliever Blake Treinen threw a fastball to the backstop. But the ball bounced right back to catcher Jose Lobaton and he quickly underhanded it to the plate with plenty of time to get Wainwright coming home. Whoops. If Lobaton had looked before throwing, he would have seen that Wainwright had stopped halfway to home — and his pitcher wasn’t there, either. As the Nationals chased down the loose ball, the Cardinals scampered safely back to the bases and the inning continued. On the next pitch, Matt Adams lined a two-run single up the middle that scored two runs and gave the Cardinals a 7-0 lead.
— Timing. OK, cut the Nationals a little slack. If you thought the Reds were hurting when they faced the Cardinals, consider the Nationals. Four of their key players are out for this series with injuries: third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, center fielder Denard Span, catcher Wilson Ramos and starter Doug Fister. Also, Bryce Harper is less than 100 percent because of a quad injury. But the Nationals have persevered; they entered Thursday’s game with the same record as the Cardinals, 9-6.
— Missed opportunities. The Cardinals left a season-high 15 runners on base. See, it could have been worse for Washington.
— Wainwright’s chances to have more starts than walks. After walking three — one intentional — he’s up to nine walks after his first four starts. Wainwright didn’t record his ninth walk until his 14th start last season, when he finished with 35 in 34 starts. Though fewer walks than starts again was a goal coming into the season, he’s probably not too disappointed. With a 3-1 record, 1.80 ERA and no outing of less than seven innings, he shouldn’t be.
— Seth Maness. Through no fault of his own, the right-handed reliever’s ERA jumped to 6.35 from 1.58 without throwing a pitch. The change was due to that line drive hit right at Jhonny Peralta that he didn’t catch in Milwaukee on Wednesday. Initially ruled a hit, the official scorer quickly changed it to an error after the inning. But then, quietly, it went back to being ruled a hit. So instead of being tagged with three unearned runs, Maness was charged with three earned runs in his one inning. There is a chance a change will be made again because the ruling has been turned over to MLB.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.