GAME IN A NUTSHELL: How about "Game in a word" instead of a "nutshell?" The word: U-G-L-Y. The Nationals trailed 3-0 in the first inning (yet again). They played some stupendously sloppy defense (yet again). And they let things get out of hand late.
Taylor Jordan was roughed up early, with some major assists — er, bad choice of words there — from his defense. Ian Desmond was charged with two more errors, giving him an MLB-high seven on the young season. The Nationals committed four total errors in the game, giving them a staggering 20 in only 16 games to begin 2014.
Adam Wainwright, meanwhile, was completely in control for the Cardinals. The veteran right-hander allowed a high chopper to Desmond in the bottom of the second, and then nothing else until there were two outs in the ninth. Wainwright even had two hits, drew a walk and arguably had five productive plate appearances.
Put it all together, and you've got the worst ballgame of the year for the Nationals. Really, one of the worst ballgames in Nationals history, which is saying something.
[MORE: Denard Span runs in minors game]
HITTING LOWLIGHT: Well, the only highlight was Desmond's mile-high chopper over the mound in the bottom of the second, which proved to be the Nationals' lone hit off Wainwright. They were completely shut down by the Cardinals right-hander, who took complete control of the game. It was as if once his teammates gave him a comfortable lead, Wainwright said: "OK, boys. I'll take it from here." The Nats never threatened against the veteran right-hander, who very much embodies the definition of an ace.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: He certainly wasn't helped at all by his defense, but Jordan didn't do a whole lot to help his own cause, either. The young right-hander gave up plenty of hard-hit balls, put three batters on base either via walk or hit-by-pitch, had a shaky moment in the field himself on a first-inning bunt and saw his fastball velocity dip into the high-80s. With his pitch count at 96 and the bases loaded in the sixth, Jordan's night came to an abrupt end. And with Doug Fister now moving closer to a return from the DL, Jordan has to understand every one of his starts amounts to an audition for a job.
FIELDING LOWLIGHT: Ugh, where to begin? Take your pick. Desmond booted the first ball in play of the night, then bounced a throw later for his sixth and seventh errors of the young season. Danny Espinosa was charged with his own error when he dropped the ball trying to turn a double play, though that's a play that until this season had never been called by umpires, so it's hard to fault him too much. The lowest of the lowlights in the field, though, came on a play in which no error was charged and none of three runners on base at the time advanced. But the combination of Blake Treinen's pitch crossing up Jose Lobaton, then bouncing all the way to Adam LaRoche, who passed up a chance to throw a trailing runner out. That was a Little League play of the highest order.
KEY STAT: The Nationals have allowed at least three runs in the first two innings of seven games this season. They've allowed at least three runs in the first inning in four of their last six games.
UP NEXT: The series continues Friday night when the Nationals go up against another tough Cardinals right-hander: Michael Wacha, who came within inches of no-hitting them last September in St. Louis. Gio Gonzalez gets the start for the Nats, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m.