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Molina's error helps Nationals beat Cardinals in pitcher's duel

Friday, April 18, 2014 | 9:41 p.m. CDT
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Michael Wacha throws during the first inning against the Nationals on Friday in Washington. Wacha pitched seven innings, giving up just one earned run, but still took the loss.

WASHINGTON — Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina's throwing error combined with Michael Wacha's wild pitch to allow two unearned runs in the seventh inning, breaking a tie and helping Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals beat St. Louis 3-1 Friday night.

Washington pitcher Gonzalez (3-1) allowed one run and four hits in seven innings, retiring the last 11 batters he faced. He finished with seven strikeouts and one walk as Washington ended an eight-game losing streak against St. Louis that dated to Game 5 of the teams' 2012 National League division series.

Wacha (2-1) gave up five hits and one earned run. But a night after the Nationals made three errors — they initially were charged with four, but one was changed to a hit Friday — it was the Cardinals' turn to be sloppy.

St. Louis finished with three errors, two coming in the pivotal seventh inning.

A pair of singles and an error on third baseman Matt Carpenter — who dropped Wacha's throw of a bunt — loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh. Wacha struck out Nate McLouth and got Jose Lobaton to hit a roller that led to a forceout at home. But with pinch hitter Zach Walters up, Wacha threw a pitch in the dirt that darted away from Molina, who won his sixth consecutive NL Gold Glove award in 2013.

As Ian Desmond raced home, Molina tried to make an underhand toss to Wacha. But the throw — which did not appear in time to beat Desmond, anyway — was off-target and went into the Cardinals' dugout, allowing Danny Espinosa to score, too. Desmond shouted and punched the air, a 1-1 game suddenly 3-1.

On Sept. 24, in his ninth career start, Wacha no-hit the Nationals until there were two outs in the ninth inning, when Ryan Zimmerman's infield single ended the bid.

This time, Washington had three hits by the third, punctuated by Anthony Rendon's solo shot with two outs in the third. Rendon drove the first pitch of the at-bat, a 74 mph curveball, into the visitor's bullpen beyond left field for his third homer.

The Cardinals evened things in the fourth, when Allen Craig doubled off the wall in right, Molina singled, and Mark Ellis drove in a run with a blooper that right fielder Jayson Werth awkwardly attempted to reach but didn't. It was ruled a single.

But after those three hits in a row, Gonzalez regrouped and shut down the Cardinals.

Tyler Clippard came on for the eighth and needed 26 pitches just to get one out, on Jhonny Peralta's comebacker, after pinch hitter Jon Jay doubled and Carpenter walked. With runners on second and third, Clippard was replaced by Drew Storen, who was the closer back in October 2012, when he let the Cardinals erase a 7-5 deficit with two outs in the top of the ninth of Game 5 to win 9-7.

But this time, Storen got Matt Holliday on a popup in foul territory, then Craig on a groundout.

Rafael Soriano shook off a comebacker that hit his leg and a walk to get three outs for his fourth save.


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