Adams helps decide another Cards-Nats duel
Slugger hits second clutch HR in as many nights; Miller sharp for 6 2/3
ST. LOUIS -- Matt Adams thought his dad, in St. Louis for Father's Day weekend, might be happy with what he provided as an early gift Friday night.
He'll take the encore, too.
Adams, whose solo home run provided all the offensive output in Friday's victory, followed it up a night later when he dispatched a pitch in the seventh inning over the fence in right field to give the Cardinals the lead. Two insurance runs followed in the inning, and combined with another quality start from Shelby Miller, the Cardinals beat the Nationals, 4-1, on Saturday in front of 44,785 at Busch Stadium.
"I think tonight was a little bit better being before Father's Day and coming in the situation it came in," Adams said.
Both homers, though, came in critical moments for the Cardinals. Adams' shot Friday came in the second inning, but it proved to be one of five total hits in the game and the lone run of a pitchers' duel.
The matchup of two first-round picks from the 2009 First-Year Player Draft didn't disappoint on Saturday, and it made Adams' second homer in as many nights just as crucial. Miller, the 19th pick in 2009, and Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg, the top selection, continued the duel trend, allowing one run each through the first six innings.
The Cardinals put together threats against Strasburg in the fifth and sixth innings, but both went for naught. A two-out double by Jhonny Peralta in the fifth was followed by an intentional walk of Peter Bourjos. Miller swung through an 80-mph curveball in the dirt to end the inning.
The next inning started with a one-out double from Mark Ellis, but he was thrown out attempting to get to third on a grounder to short. The Cardinals got a single from Allen Craig and the runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch before Strasburg induced a grounder to end the threat yet again.
"That was one of those grinding games that you know when you go against Strasburg, that's likely what's going to happen, you're going to have to grind," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We've been in so many of them, I think we're actually starting to understand that mindset. You stay in the game, keep fighting, put your head down, make the plays and take hard at-bats -- and good things can happen."
That good thing scorched off Adams' bat in the seventh. After he worked a 3-1 count, and was looking for Strasburg's marquee fastball, Adams saw one and connected on the 95-mph pitch. It sailed 399 feet into the right-field bullpen to give the Cardinals a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"The home run is exactly what you're looking for," Matheny said. "Big hit, big time."
"We tried to get him on a couple of changeups earlier in that at-bat and fell behind," Nationals manager Matt Williams added. "That's what those guys are paid to do."
Strasburg retired the next two Cardinals hitters he faced after Adams homered before pinch-hitter Jon Jay singled.
The Nationals' bullpen issued two walks and hit a batter to plate another run before Craig hit a weak grounder that sat on the infield grass in front of third for an infield single and the third and final run of the seventh.
Miller, who entered Saturday's start fresh off his second career complete game, watched a potential shutout go by the wayside in the first inning.
A one-out single by Anthony Rendon followed by a double from Jayson Werth plated the Nationals' run early after they were shut out and picked up just two singles Friday night.
The Cardinals got on the board with two-out hitting in the third inning. Miller helped his cause when he took a 1-2, 95-mph fastball down the first-base line to the right-field wall for a double. Matt Carpenter singled to center to score Miller and even the score.
Miller would settle into a groove, striking out six of the next 12 hitters he faced. The Nationals wouldn't put together a true threat until the seventh. Miller followed up a leadoff single with a flyout and strikeout, but he walked the fourth hitter of the inning to bring up his counterpart.
Strasburg worked the count full and fouled off the sixth and seventh pitches he saw before the eighth pitch missed the zone to load the bases and effectively ended Miller's night.
"When you get down to the bottom of the order and you've got an opportunity [with runners] at first and second to get the pitcher, we've got to make good pitches right there," Matheny said. "It got away from him."
Randy Choate kept the tie game intact, needing just one pitch out of the bullpen to end the jam, getting Denard Span to hit a weak grounder to second. Miller went 6 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and four walks while striking out seven and allowing only the first-inning run.
After struggling with mechanics in late May, Miller has now allowed one run in his last 15 2/3 innings.
"I think I'm a little bit more prepared, just maturing a little bit more every single start, it seems like," said the 23-year-old Miller. "I'm just trying to focus the whole entire game."
Pat Neshek lowered his ERA to 0.95 with a scoreless eighth frame and closer Trevor Rosenthal saved his second game in as many nights in the ninth when Adams turned an unassisted double play on a sharply hit grounder to first.
Adams stood at his locker well after hitting his fifth homer of the season. He had a text message from his father.
Two home runs in two days, and it wasn't even Father's Day.
"He just texted me and told me to go out there and play hard tomorrow again," Adams said. "So we'll see where it goes."