Left-handed hurler Matt Chico and the Washington Nationals are wearing the Sunday reds in the last game of a six-game homestand. Five straight wins, three from the Cincinnati Reds and the first two of three from the visiting St. Louis Cardinals. The Nationals are now ten games under .500, at (50-60), a half-game behind the fourth place Florida Marlins, and without a doubt playing their best baseball of the season over this sustained stretch of success.
Albert Pujols backs Nationals left fielder Ryan Church all the way to the wall, but Church closes the glove on the second out of the first. Matt Chico blows a high inside fastball by Juan Encarnacion, who takes an all or nothing swing and gets the latter. The only change is the Nationals lineup on the field today is behind the plate, where Jesus Flores does the catching for Brian Schneider in the day game after last night’s win.
Today’s Cardinals left fielder Ryan Ludwick catches a hanging change, or breakless curve, but either way he’s all over it for a solo shot to left center and a 1-0 St.Louis lead. Adam Wainwright, statistically the best Cardinals pitcher this season, is best known for the knee-locking breaking ball he threw to Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran to close out last year’s NL Championship series. In the rotation this season to compensate for the mass exodus of Cardinals arms after the World Series win, Wainwright still has the snap, as he gets several Nationals looking all ready early this afternoon.
Wainwright gives up a double off the wall in left to Ryan Church, walks Nook Logan, and gives up a two-out single to the opposing pitcher Matt Chico, who grounds up the middle and off the cleats of a stumbling David Eckstein. Church scores. 1-1 tie.
Matt Chico faces Albert Pujols with one on, one out, in the third. Chico starts with a low fastball, gets a foul on another heater for strike two, and throws an 0-2 curve in the dirt that Pujols somehow reaches down and picks off the dirt for a drooping single to left. Chico gets a fly out to center from Encarnacion, but hits Ryan Ludwick to load the bases for Jim Edmonds who pops out harmlessly to left. Still 1-1.
THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! Ryan Zimmerman finds the gap in left center with a line drive that rolls to the wall before anyone can catch up to it. Zimmerman is in standing up at second to start the Nationals third. DY saw where Zimmerman hit it, and he does the same, back to back doubles give the Nationals the lead. 2-1 Nationals. Wainwright hits Jesus Flores to load the bases with two out for Nook Logan, who beats out a broken bat dribbler to the infield that scores DY from third. 3-1 Nationals.
Adam Wainwright does his best to help the Cardinals catch up with a solo home run to center that bounces off the facade below the upper deck. Wainwright? 3-2 Nationals. Matt Chico gives up a single to Pujols and a walk to Encarnacion with one out in the fifth. Ludwick, with another RBI opportunity, strikes out chasing a curve in the dirt for the second out. Cards Manager Tony La Russa gets tossed arguing the call. Jim Edmonds lines to right, Pujols scores, Encarnacion’s running, Kearns throws in from right, hits the cut-off man Belliard, who turns and throws on-line to Flores beating Encarnacion by a mile, the plate’s blocked, and, “YERRR OUT!!” the Ump yells. 3-3 ballgame after five.
Saul Rivera pitches a scoreless sixth for the Nationals. Adam Wainwright works through the bottom of the sixth holding it tied at 3-3. Luis “Set-Up” Ayala strikes out Albert Pujols looking with brutal cut fastball that moves across the plate and in for strike three and the second out of the seventh. Encarnacion flies out, and Ayala retires the side in order in the top of the seventh. Stand up and stretch…
Jim Edmonds strokes a one-out double to center off Ayala in the eigth. Chris Duncan walks, bringing Manny Acta, Nationals Manager, out to the mound. Ray King will come on to face Adam Kenne-…King faces Yadier Molina. Ground ball to the mound on the first pitch, King fields, throws to second, to first, double play to end the top of the eigth. Still 3-3.
Nook Logan bunts for a single, dropping it down the third base line, and reaching safely with his Logan-like speed, when the throw comes in behind the sprinting "Adjective!". Ryan Franklin on the mound for the Cards in the eigth. Robert Fick’s sac bunt advances Logan to second. D’Angelo Jimenez walks. Ronnie Belliard is up next, and LOGAN steals on the first pitch. No throw from Molina! Belliard swings through a full-count curve. THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! THE KIDS CALL HIM ZIM!!! After fighting off several 0-2 strikes, Zimmerman reaches down and slices a single to left. Logan scores. 4-3 Nationals. DY clears the bases with a double into the right center gap. 6-3 Nationals. Wait for it…
Chad Cordero enters the game in the ninth. The Flat-Brimmed Closer wears the red day game jersey and cap with the interlocking DC logo. Cordero’s brim is razor sharp and as flat as the blade of Adam Oates’ stick, which he used to pass to Brett Hull when both were with the St.Louis Blues. Aaron Miles down swinging at a low outside fastball. David Eckstein flies out to left. Scott Rolen lines to right…KEARNS dives in and makes the CATCH!!! 1,2,3 Nationals win. Six straight. A Homestand Sweep. One win closer to .500 at (51-60) and the Nationals fans are starting to BELIEVE!! Final score 6-3.
Nationals now 51-60.