The Cardinals were handed seven walks by Nationals starter Geo Gonzalez Sunday afternoon and had two more base runners handed to them on errors, but they were unable to generate any offense of their own and stranded 10 runners on base in a 3-2 loss.
Gonzalez loaded the bases in the second inning with Washington up 1-0 and then he uncorked a couple of wild pitches to allow the Cardinals to take a richly undeserved lead. The Redbirds hadn't even managed a hit at that point.
The Birds big chance to break things open came in the seventh when Jon Jay reached on an error, Carlos Beltran singled and Matt Holliday was hit by a pitch. The Cardinals' two players with the highest batting average came to the plate with a chance to add some much-needed insurance. But Allen Craig grounded into a fielder's choice for a force out at the plate. Then Yadier Molina hit into a double play on the first pitch he saw to kill the rally.
In the top of the eight the Nationals scored a pair of two-out runs off lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski and the Cardinals couldn't mount a rally to get back into the game.
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It's not the end of the world to lose the first game of a five-game series. But the Cardinals simply MUST win Monday. Then they'd have to win two out of three in Washington to move on on to the National League Championship series instead of being forced to come up with a sweep.