In the Cardinals-Nationals series preview, I crowned Matt Carpenter the best pinch-hitting option in the series. I then declared the Nationals trio of Roger Bernadina, Chad Tracy, and Tyler Moore the second-through-fourth best pinch-hitting options available in the series. Davey Johnson deployed each of the three in Sunday’s Game One victory.
Moore will receive a hero’s treatment for his two-strike, two-out, two-run single in the eighth inning. But the contributions of Bernadina and Tracy to the single should not go unnoticed. Bernadina entered the game in the sixth inning to hit with a runner on and two outs. He drew a walk and failed to score or advance on the basepaths. By drawing that walk, however, Bernadina was able to push the lineup forward one spot. Important when you consider the Nationals’ eighth inning otherwise could have ended with eighth-place hitter Kurt Suzuki’s strikeout.
Although Tracy did not record a plate appearance, he did serve as bait. With the right-handed Mitchell Boggs on the mound facing Suzuki, Johnson sent Tracy to the on-deck circle. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny elected to play the percentages by using left-handed specialist Mark Rzepczynski to face Tracy; a smart move, albeit one Johnson countered by recalling Tracy and inserting the right-handed Moore. Credit Mike Rizzo and the Nationals bench depth for Johnson’s ability to go on the offensive, and then counter Matheny without hesitation.
Johnson should credit Moore for erasing a potential mistake on his part, too. Earlier in the eighth inning, with no one out and runners on the corners, Johnson had Danny Espinosa put down a bunt. The play appeared to be a safety squeeze, but served as a traditional sacrifice, with the runner on first advancing 90 feet in exchange for an out. Given the speed of the runner on third (Mike Morse) and the quality of the upcoming hitters (Suzuki and the pitcher’s spot), Johnson’s play could’ve backfired. And may have, if not for Moore.
- Jayson Werth made a fantastic, leaping grab on a Daniel Descalso flyball to the right-field wall in the sixth inning.
- Another Johnson decision that played out better than anticipated occurred in the seventh inning, when he called upon Ryan Mattheus to work out of a bases-loaded, nobody out situation. In two pitches, Mattheus coerced a force out and a double play from the Cardinals and kept the deficit at one run.
- Normally a good defensive shortstop, Pete Kozma sparked the Nationals rally by making an error on what appeared to be a routine groundball.
- Not often will you see a team happy about a five-inning, seven-walk effort from its starting pitcher, but Washington has to feel good about what Gio Gonzalez did. Despite lacking fastball control or feel for his curveball, Gonzalez was able to limit the damage to two runs and one hit over five innings of work. He also adjusted and found his motion a bit after the second inning, avoiding a mechanical catastrophe.
- Adam Wainwright also struggled with his fastball control, though he rode his curveball to a solid start. His final line: 5 2/3 innings, six hits, one run, three walks, and 10 strikeouts.
- David Freese collected two of the Cardinals’ three hits on the day. If Freese keeps that up he might earn the reputation as a postseason player or something.
- Game Two will take place Monday afternoon, with Jordan Zimmermann opposing Jaime Garcia in a battle of commonly misspelled names.