|St. Louis (11-8) «||0||0||2||0||0||1||0||0||0||3||8||1|
WASHINGTON -- 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.
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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."
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.
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."
|The Cardinals' Shelby Miller fans eight and allows two runs in 6 2/3 innings to defeat the Nats and move to 3-1. (Getty Images)|
|Players of the Game|
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|St. Louis Cardinals|
|Matt Carpenter, 2B||4||1||1||0||1||1||1||.265|
|Allen Craig, 1B||4||0||2||2||0||1||1||.250|
|Matt Holliday, LF||3||1||0||0||0||0||2||.233|
|Carlos Beltran, RF||4||0||2||0||0||0||1||.297|
|Yadier Molina, C||4||0||1||1||0||1||1||.319|
|David Freese, 3B||3||0||1||0||1||1||0||.235|
|Jon Jay, CF||4||0||0||0||0||0||2||.197|
|Pete Kozma, SS||2||1||1||0||2||1||0||.241|
|Shelby Miller, P||1||0||0||0||0||1||3||.000|
|Joe Kelly, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Trevor Rosenthal, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Daniel Descalso, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.178|
|Edward Mujica, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-popped out for Rosenthal in the 9th|
|2B - Allen Craig (6, Haren)|
|SH - Shelby Miller 2 (4)|
|RBI - Allen Craig 2 (14), Yadier Molina (12)|
|2-OUT RBI - Allen Craig 2 (8)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|E - Yadier Molina (2, Throwing)|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|Shelby Miller (W,3-1)||6.2||4||2||2||2||8||0||2.16|
|Joe Kelly (H,1)||0.1||0||0||0||0||0||0||6.00|
|Trevor Rosenthal (H,5)||1||1||0||0||1||2||0||3.86|
|Edward Mujica (S,2)||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||1.23|
|Pitches-Strikes - Shelby Miller 98-65, Joe Kelly 3-2, Trevor Rosenthal 23-15, Edward Mujica 10-8|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Shelby Miller 6-6, Trevor Rosenthal 1-0, Edward Mujica 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Shelby Miller 26, Joe Kelly 1, Trevor Rosenthal 5, Edward Mujica 3|
|Denard Span, CF||4||0||1||0||0||1||1||.270|
|Jayson Werth, RF||4||1||1||0||0||2||1||.274|
|Bryce Harper, LF||3||0||0||0||1||0||1||.353|
|Adam LaRoche, 1B||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.185|
|Ian Desmond, SS||4||1||1||1||0||2||2||.288|
|Anthony Rendon, 3B||4||0||1||1||0||2||0||.125|
|Danny Espinosa, 2B||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.176|
|Kurt Suzuki, C||2||0||0||0||2||1||0||.243|
|Dan Haren, P||2||0||0||0||0||2||1||.143|
|Craig Stammen, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Chad Tracy, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||.136|
|Ryan Mattheus, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Drew Storen, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-flied out for Stammen in the 7th|
|2B - Ian Desmond (8, Miller), Anthony Rendon (1, Miller)|
|RBI - Ian Desmond (5), Anthony Rendon (1)|
|2-OUT RBI - Ian Desmond (1), Anthony Rendon (1)|
|SB - Kurt Suzuki (1, 3rd base off Miller/Molina)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|DP - Desmond-Espinosa-LaRoche, LaRoche-Suzuki, Rendon-Espinosa-LaRoche|
|Dan Haren (L,1-3)||5||6||3||3||3||3||0||7.36|
|IBB - Kozma by Craig Stammen|
|HBP - Holliday (by Dan Haren)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Dan Haren 98-57, Craig Stammen 25-10, Ryan Mattheus 13-9, Drew Storen 7-6|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Dan Haren 7-4, Craig Stammen 3-0, Ryan Mattheus 2-0, Drew Storen 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Dan Haren 24, Craig Stammen 7, Ryan Mattheus 3, Drew Storen 3|
|Attendance - 27263|
|Game Time - 2:42|
|Temperature - 51|
|Umpires - Home - Jim Wolf, First Base - Cory Blaser, Second Base - Jim Joyce, Third Base - Jeff Nelson|