Still, even as the Nationals tried to chase the game, there were two at-bats that might have completely overhauled it. In the fifth, with Carpenter working his pitch count into the 80s as he protected a 4-0 lead, LaRoche faced an 0-2 count, took a pair of curveballs, fouled off a two-strike pitch, and drew a walk to load the bases. Up came Morse.
“I think our lineup, 3-4-5 — actually, 1 through 7 — you can compare that to any team in baseball, and I’ll take our lineup,” Werth said. “So when we get our guys up there with guys on base, I definitely feel good about the spot we’re in and the situational hitting — all that stuff.”
Carpenter started Morse with a curveball, and Morse whiffed. He then took a curveball to even the count 1-1. Carpenter followed with a biting sinker.
“Got in on me a little bit,” Morse said.
He swung, and could do nothing with it. The ball floated into shallow right, an easy out, an opportunity killed.
“If he doesn’t get that sinker in a little bit. . . ” Zimmerman said.
If. There was, still, another chance. When pinch hitter Steve Lombardozzi singled with two outs in the sixth, Carpenter was done. Werth came to the plate with two out and two on, and flame-throwing right-hander Trevor Rosenthal coming on in relief. Rosenthal throws his fastball 100 mph, but keeps things interesting with a curveball if he gets ahead in the count.
“You don’t know if he throws [the curve] a lot, or he throws it for a strike much,” Zimmerman said. “But once you get two strikes, you have to at least honor it a little bit. And when you have to honor another pitch with a guy throwing 100, it’s pretty tough.”
So Rosenthal started Werth with a pair of fastballs for strikes. The next pitch reached 100, and Werth fouled it off. Rosenthal then came with the curve, floating in by comparison at 82 mph.
“I’d like to just foul that ball off there,” Werth said. He did, but not enough. It landed in the mitt of Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig in foul ground, the Nationals’ eighth and final at-bat with a runner in scoring position. They never got another hit the rest of the day.