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St. Louis Cardinals survive Lackey meltdown to beat Washington Nationals

When former St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter got mad it was bad news for the opposition.

His focus was sharpened to a laser beam and his intensity was intimidating to hitters.

But their current hurler with a reputation of having a sour demeanor on the mound, John Lackey, let his emotions get the best of him Wednesday, falling apart briefly in the third inning -- and it nearly cost the Redbirds a ballgame.

John Lackey pitched very well for the first two frames, putting a pair of goose eggs on the board while St. Louis hitters scored one run in the first and two runs each in the second and third to build a 5-0 lead.

But, after giving up back-to-back-to-back singles and a sacrifice fly, Lackey boiled over. He issued a walk to load the bases with two outs and then groused for a moment after giving up a hard-hit ball to the right side of the infield that he, apparently, assumed was going to be a two-run hit. 

Instead, first baseman Matt Adams was able to field the ball. But because Lackey paused, the big pitcher couldn't get over to first base in time to cover and what should have been an out was turned into an RBI single. Then, as Lackey seethed, the next hitter added insult to injury with a double that tied the game at five.

Fortunately, the Cardinals hitters who were so helpless the night before, rallied to tack on a six and then a seventh run and Lackey cooled his jets to pitch a total of 5 2/3 innings with no more runs allowed. Take away that one stumble and he pitched a pretty nice game. But it cost Lackey a victory with Kevin Siegrist picking up the decision in relief.

Closer Trevor Rosenthal made the additional runs stand up with a dominant bottom of the ninth to preserve a 7-5 win. He struck out the first batter on three pitches, the second on a full count change up and got the third to fly out weakly.

Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, who started the season terribly slowly after finishing 2014 with a spectacular playoff performance, is on fire. He hit a homer early then collected a clutch RBI double later to put St. Louis back ahead as part of a three-hit, three-RBI night. He also made three spectacular plays in the field, two ranging plays to his right which ended when he made perfect pegs to first base despite the fact that his momentum was going in the other direction and another ranging to his left that he somehow kept sight of as Adams was unable to make a play.

Carpenter hit a homer to lead off the game and Adams had one late for an insurance run to give St. Louis three long balls in the game, half of their total for the season before the game.

Cardinals Star of the Game: Wong

Play of the Game: A tie between Wong's three defensive gems.

Lowlight: Lackey's poor fielding play was extremely costly. But a close second was Mark Reynolds' strikeout in a one-run game with men on second and third and one out. He seemed like he was trying to hit the ball to the moon when a simple sacrifice fly or grounder would have been very helpful. He has six strikeouts in 15 at-bats in 2015.

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