- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The St. Louis Cardinals were in town Tuesday, and they continued to haunt Washington Nationals closer Drew Storen.

Storen gave up the tying run in the ninth, his first blown save of the season, and fans had flashbacks to Game 5 of the 2012 National League Division Series. But this time, Yunel Escobar came to the rescue, hitting a walk-off home run with two outs in the 10th to give the Nationals a 2-1 win.

With the victory, Washington pulled back to .500 this season.

THE RUNDOWN: Considering their respective pitching staffs, it’s no surprise Tuesday night’s game was a low-scoring affair. What was surprising, however, was that the two teams combined to record 21 hits — and only two runs. Washington’s lone tally came in the third, when Ian Desmond hit a leadoff double, Jayson Werth walked and Bryce Harper singled to right. The inning ended in bizarre fashion, however, after Ryan Zimmerman hit a towering ball to deep right-center, sending Harper around second base before Jon Jay made the catch against the wall. As Harper retreated to first, he failed to touch second base, and the Cardinals stepped on the bag for the out. From that point on, there were lots of baserunners, lots of pitching changes and no runs — that is, until the ninth. Storen gave up two singles and threw a wild pitch to allow the Cardinals to promptly tie the game.

THE HIGHLIGHT: Desmond has struggled in the field so far this season. That’s putting it in about the nicest way possible. But in the eighth inning, he made the kind of play that reminds you of the defense he’s capable of playing. On a well-hit chopper to the left side of the infield by Jay, Desmond ranged to his right and collected the ball with a backhanded grab. In one fluid motion, his body still moving toward third base, he rifled it across the diamond to beat Jay, who’s no slouch on the bases. It was the best play in an error-free night for Desmond, who has now played two clean games in a row. That may not sound like much, but after the nightmarish stretch he had to begin the season, it’s something.

STAR OF THE GAME: Lost in the late-innings hoopla was a pretty remarkable start by Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez didn’t exactly have a spotless performance, but what he did was pretty unique. He gave up eight hits and walked four, 12 baserunners in total, but allowed zero runs. Multiple Cardinals reached base in four of Gonzalez’s six innings, but he wiggled out of the jam every time, including a bases-loaded predicament in the fifth. He threw 107 pitches, finished with four strikeouts and lowered his ERA for the season from 5.11 to 3.44.

SEE ALSO: Anthony Rendon, Nationals third baseman, nears rehabilitation assignment

THE TAKEAWAY: It should never have gone to extras, but the Nationals took care of business when it did. Escobar sent one to the visiting bullpen in left field and slid headfirst into home, where a mob of white jerseys — and a Gatorade shower — were waiting for him. With the home run, the Nationals improved to 2-1 in extra-inning games this season.

• Tom Schad can be reached at tschad@washingtontimes.com.

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