Drew Storen took the loss, not so much for his pitches but for the pace at which he delivered them. In the ninth inning, with the score tied thanks to his own escape in the eighth, Storen allowed Allen Craig a leadoff single. With one out, Craig bolted for second base. He had such an overwhelming jump, catcher Jesus Flores did not bother throwing the ball. David Freese immediately singled Craig home, the winning run scoring following the pivotal steal.
The steal off Storen sealed the game, but too much had happened to fully blame any one player or moment. Zimmermann wanted his share. As the Nationals scored at least eight runs for the fourth straight game, Zimmermann allowed a career-high eight earned runs in 32
3 innings, the first time he could not escape the fourth inning since September 2010, in his first two major league starts after Tommy John surgery. “This loss is totally my fault,” Zimmermann said.
The Nationals could at least take solace in another Atlanta Braves loss, which kept Washington’sdivision lead at 6½ games and dropped its magic number to 24. “The important thing is, we took a game off the calendar,” said Jayson Werth, who left in the ninth with cramping in his hamstring. “Nothing changes.”
Both Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa clobbered home runs. The Nationals took a 6-2 lead after two innings that was erased by Zimmermann’s eight hits allowed, including two homers. Bryce Harper’s bold dash home in the sixth would give the Nationals a 9-8 lead, and Sean Burnett’s leadoff walk in the eighth led to another tying run for the Cardinals.
The wild action led to the ninth and to Craig’s steal. “He just timed me,” Storen said. “That’s just where it is. I’m just concentrating on trying to get a groundball there. And he just took the base.”
The official scorer ruled defensive indifference, a decision that would rightfully be reversed for a stolen base. In the ninth inning of a tie game, the Cardinals had not accepted a favor. They had exploited a flaw. The Nationals have allowed 97 stolen bases in 113 attempts this season, and opponents have noticed. Craig, a thick-bodied slugger coming off knee surgery, had one steal this season.
“Once they see it, they’re going to take a shot at it,” Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr said.