- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez took a positive step forward on Monday night.

The Nationals did not.

Gonzalez bounced back from a disastrous three-start slump with six solid innings in the Nationals’ 8-5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals

The former 20-game winner had given up 14 earned runs in his previous three starts, all loses, covering 12 1-3 innings.

He showed flashes of his early-season form with five scoreless innings against the hot-hitting Cardinals, who are averaging 6.3 runs over their last nine games.

Gonzalez retired the last eight hitters he faced after giving up three runs in the fourth.

“It’s pitching, you’re going to hit some bumps in the road,” Gonzalez said. “You’ve just got to learn to make adjustments.”

Washington manager Matt Williams was pleased with the effort from his southpaw.

“A little bit better,” he said. “He had that one inning that got him,”

Gonzalez, who won 21 games in 2012, gave up three runs on five hits. He struck out four and walked two in his 92-pitch effort.

Jason Heyward celebrated in grand fashion after his two-run, tie-breaking double in the seventh inning keyed a five-run rally that helped the Cardinals to their 33rd come-from-behind win of the season.

The usually reserved Heyward screamed loudly and gave an emphatic double fist pump upon reaching second base.

“Just feeding off the energy that we’re giving each other,” he said. “We needed to give ourselves a little boost.”

St. Louis won for the eighth time in nine games and moved five games ahead of the idle Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central.

Washington, which had won six of its previous eight, fell 6 1/2 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East. New York beat Philadelphia 3-1 on Monday.

The Cardinals sent 10 batters to the plate in the seventh and erased a 5-3 deficit with five two-out runs. They followed with one big hit after another as six successive hitters reached base.

“We just had clutch hitting when we really needed it,” manager Mike Matheny said. “They just kept coming. They have faith in the next guy. They’re going to do their part and pass it on. That was impressive, a great run.”

Kolten Wong followed Heyward’s hit with a run-scoring single to push the lead to 8-5.

Stephen Piscotty and Jhonny Peralta had RBI hits off Casey Janssen (1-3) to tie the game.

Mark Reynolds started the outburst with a single. Brandon Moss reached on a broken-bat infield hit. Following a double play, Matt Carpenter drew a walk to start the line moving.

“A little unfortunate on the broken bat,” Williams said. “But this was a tough one for us.”

Kevin Siegrist (6-1) picked up the win despite allowing three runs in the seventh.

St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal recorded his 42nd save in 44 opportunities. He had missed the previous three games due to the birth of his daughter.

Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer and drove in four runs for the Nationals. Zimmerman, who went 3 for 5 and was a triple shy of the cycle, has 15 RBIs in his last eight games.

“I think I’m just getting back into the groove,” Zimmerman said. “It helps to be healthy and get to play every day. I’ll just continue to do what I’m doing, hopefully.”

Zimmerman’s three-run homer in the seventh, his 13th of the season, put the Nationals up 5-3.

The loss was costly for the Nationals, who realize they have a tall order in chasing down the Mets.

“This was a tough loss,” Zimmerman said. “To come back and get the lead, then they came back and got some good hits on good pitches. Just a tough game.”

“Everybody knows where we’re at and what’s in front of us,” Williams said.

TRAINER’S ROOM:

Nationals: INF Yunel Escobar returned to the lineup on Monday. He missed the previous three games after being hit on the hand by a pitch on Thursday.

Cardinals: RHP Carlos Martinez was scratched from his scheduled start on Tuesday due to a sore back suffered in his last start Thursday in Arizona. LHP Marco Gonzales will be recalled from Triple-A Memphis to make the start. The Cardinals first-round selection in the 2013 draft, Gonzales is 1-4 with 5.20 ERA in 13 starts in Memphis. … RHP Lance Lynn will make his scheduled start Friday despite rolling his ankle in Saturday’s 6-0 win at San Francisco.

UP NEXT:

Washington RHP Joe Ross (5-5, 3.24 ERA) will take on LHP Marco Gonzales in the second game of the three-game set on Tuesday. Gonzales is making his first appearance of the season. Ross is 2-0 in his last two starts with a 0.69 ERA, allowing just one run in 13 innings.


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