Nationals comeback not in the cards

Nationals comeback not in the cards

WASHINGTON -- Comeback wins have been the norm for the Nationals of late. Of their five consecutive victories entering Tuesday's action, four of them were of the come-from-behind variety late in the game.

The Nationals had a chance to make another comeback, but they fell short and were blanked, 2-0, by the Cardinals in front of 25,937 fans at RFK Stadium to snap their winning streak.

Washington's best chances to at least tie the game occurred in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan was giving the Nationals fits with his arsenal of pitches. He didn't give up a run in 7 2/3 innings, but it appeared as though Washington might get to him in the eighth.

With two outs, Suppan allowed a walk to Ryan Zimmerman and a single to Nick Johnson. Reliever Adam Wainwright then entered the game, and he hit Adam Kearns with a pitch to load the bases. But Wainwright struck out Brian Schneider to end the inning. Schneider said his best opportunity to hit Wainwright was on a 1-0 fastball, which he took for a strike. After that, Schneider didn't see a good pitch to hit.

"[Wainwright] made a good pitch over the plate on 1-0," Schneider said. "That was probably my best pitch. After that --- the ball moves a lot -- he made a good pitch on me inside. He came back with that curveball. It's definitely an above-average curveball. I tried to foul it off and put it in play somehow, but he got me."

In the ninth, Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen came in to close the game out. After getting two quick outs, Isringhausen walked pinch-hitter Ryan Church and Alfonso Soriano. Felipe Lopez was the next hitter, and he looked like he was going to put Isringhausen on the ropes.

After getting two quick strikes, Lopez worked the count to 2-2, but Isringhausen threw a high fastball that Lopez missed, ending the game. The Nationals thought they had enough magic left to pull out another victory.

"I was sitting in the dugout and I looked at the scoreboard, and you see it's the eighth inning," Schneider said. "It has been funny how things have been working out for us. Obviously, we didn't get it done tonight."

Unlike the previous 77 losses, manager Frank Robinson said he could accept losing on Tuesday for one reason.

"You could live with a loss like this," Robinson said. "It wasn't something we did. It was something that the other team did. It was a little better than we did. So you could live with that."

Nationals right-hander Pedro Astacio followed Ramon Ortiz's near no-hitter with a nice outing of his own. Astacio pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up two runs on six hits. He struck out two while not walking a batter.

"It was a good outing," Robinson said. "He did all he could do -- we just didn't score any runs for him tonight."

The first run was scored in the first inning when Albert Pujols hit a 3-2 curveball for his 44th home run of the season. Robinson called the right-handed slugger the best hitter in the game today.

"There is a way to pitch him, but as we found out twice already in this series, if you make a mistake, just like Ryan Howard, they are going to hurt you," Robinson said.

With one out in the seventh, St. Louis had the bases loaded when Yadier Molina hit what looked to be a double-play ball to Lopez at shortstop. Lopez threw a strike to second baseman Bernie Castro, who dropped the ball, and no out was recorded as Scott Rolen scored on the play.

On offense, the Nationals had trouble against Suppan. They had runners in scoring position just twice in the game.

"We had a good gameplan going in," Suppan said. "These guys are tough hitters. When they were patient, I was able to locate pitches. When they were aggressive, I was able to get them to chase pitches."

Said Schneider: "He was in and out, up [and] down. He has a bunch of pitches to keep you off balance. He doesn't throw as hard as those other guys, but he knows how to pitch, and the guy mixes everything up."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.