ST. LOUIS -- The Nationals needed right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to go deep in the second game of a day-night doubleheader against the Cardinals on Wednesday, because manager Jim Riggleman had only two relievers -- Collin Balester and Brian Broderick -- available. Most of Washington's relievers were used in the first game.
Zimmermann went deep, going six innings, but the Nationals ended up losing the game, 5-3, at Busch Stadium to split the twin bill. Washington won the first game, 8-6.
In the nightcap, Zimmermann allowed all five runs on eight hits. The game was tied at 3 when the Cardinals scored the go-ahead runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Zimmermann retired the first two hitters he faced, but had trouble getting the third out. Four consecutive hitters reached base, with Lance Berkman and Yadier Molina getting RBI hits.
"I just think that that's so much what we're capable of," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "We've got tough, competitive hitters. These guys haven't been this productive in their careers because they hit 2-0, 2-1 all the time. They've got to fight back and scratch out a hit behind in the count against all pitching, to all fields. It's an impressive group. I'm looking forward to watching them all year long. They've been fun to watch so far."
According to Zimmermann, the key to the inning was walking Albert Pujols on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and nobody on base. Zimmermann simply didn't want to give Pujols anything to hit, and threw a breaking ball for ball four.
"I really didn't want to make a mistake," Zimmermann said. "I walked him. I should have bared down a little more and went after [Matt] Holliday. A couple of hits after that, it kind of had a snowball effect. I just missed on a couple of pitches.
"I didn't want to give [Pujols] a cookie -- 3-2 -- just to hit it. I still wanted to be extra fine with the pitch and not make that huge mistake."
LaRussa came away impressed watching Zimmermann, who threw 96 pitches, 56 of which went for strikes.
"Very impressive," LaRussa said. "I kept looking at [Jaime Garcia's pitch count] totals and I thought Jaime was efficient, but [Zimmermann] was ridiculous. I saw the catcher's glove, and he hit the glove all night long. That's a tough loss for him."
If there was a positive, the Nationals showed that they could battle a tough Cardinals team. They were down, 1-0, in the fourth inning when they took advantage of a fielding miscue by St. Louis. Rick Ankiel reached based on a three-base error by Holliday in left field and later scored on a groundout by Jayson Werth.
An inning later, the Nationals were down, 3-1, when they tied the score again. Ankiel and Danny Espinosa had RBI hits against Garcia, who pitched five innings and allowed three runs -- one earned -- on four hits.
"We were down and it's a long day," manager Jim Riggleman said. "We came back and scratched out a couple of runs. He got only a few hits, but they were relatively timely hits. The Cardinals are a good ballclub and we just have to get them tomorrow."
With the loss, the Nationals' winning streak was snapped at four games.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.