Monday’s Game Report: Nationals 5, Cardinals 2

Monday’s Game Report: Nationals 5, Cardinals 2

By Rob Rains

Sometimes the most important decisions for a manager don’t come in the later innings of a game.

For Mike Shildt, the biggest decision he had to make on Monday night came in the fifth. With runners on first and second with one out, thanks to back-to-back walks, he had a choice of pinch-hitting for John Gant in the 1-1 game or sending him to the plate to bunt.

He chose the later, and Gant did his job, but Tommy Edman grounded out to leave both runners on base.

That left Gant on the mound for the sixth, where he gave up a single and walk before Kyle Schwarber doubled in a run to chase Gant from the game and send the Nationals to the win at Busch Stadium.

It was a decision, Shildt admitted after the game, he would have liked to have over again.

Part of his decision was to try to get another inning out of Gant, who was pitching well, knowing how much the bullpen has been asked to work in the early games of the season while starters were not going deep into games.

It just wasn’t the right time to do it, he said in hindsight.

“A lot of variables, clearly,” Shildt said. “If Tommy gets a hit, we have a two-run lead.

“I’ve got to own it. I don’t feel that was the best decision I made. I’ve got to be accountable for it. It didn’t work out, I’ve got to take responsibility fully.

“Today was me not doing a good enough job. Players win games, managers avoid losing games. I didn’t do my part today with that decision.”

Here is how Monday night’s game broke down:

At the plate: Matt Carpenter got his first hit of the year, dropping down a bunt for a single to lead off the third. He later scored on a single by Edman. Those were the only hits for the Cardinals until Yadier Molina hit his second homer of the year with two outs in the sixth … Paul DeJong singled leading off the seventh, breaking a career-high streak of 26 at-bats without a hit, but he was left stranded … Nolan Arenado’s hitting streak ended at nine games as he was 0-of-4, striking out three times … The Cardinals got the tying run to the plate with two outs in the ninth after a single by Lane Thomas and a walk to Austin Dean, but Andrew Knizner struck out to end the game.

On the mound: Gant became only the second Cardinals pitcher to throw a pitch in the sixth inning in the first 10 games this season, joining Jack Flaherty … Giovanny Gallegos relieved Gant with runners on second and third and gave up a sacrifice fly before getting out of the inning stranding the runner on third. He then allowed a pinch-hit home run in the seventh … Andrew Miller failed to retire any of the four hitters he faced in the eighth, giving up one run. Ryan Helsley got of the bases loaded jam with a strikeout and a double play, with Dylan Carlson throwing out Schwarber at the plate trying to score on the fly to center.

Key stat: Since they both got hits on opening day in Cincinnati, the Cardinals second and third place hitters, Paul Goldschmidt and Arenado, are a combined 3-of-16 in the first inning in the last nine games with no RBIs. All three hits have come from Arenado.

Worth noting: Miles Mikolas was at Busch Stadium on Monday to throw a bullpen session under the watchful eye of pitching coach Mike Maddux. Mikolas, recovering from a sore shoulder he suffered this spring after missing last season because of forearm surgery, will throw another bullpen in the coming days and then will be in line to begin throwing to hitters. His return to the rotation is likely still several weeks away … Molina caught his 1,999th game for the Cardinals on Monday night and should catch his 2,000th game on Tuesday night, becoming the first player to catch that many games all for one team in major-league history.

Up next: Flaherty will get the start on Tuesday night in the second game of the series against the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

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For the latest news and features in St. Louis Sports check out STLSportsPage.com. Rob Rains, Editor.