Nats bullpen shines in win over Cardinals

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Nats bullpen shines in win over Cardinals

From Comcast SportsNetST. LOUIS (AP) -- Rookies in the postseason, the Washington Nationals played like poised veterans.The Nationals escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning, pinch hitter Tyler Moore blooped a two-out, two-run single in the eighth and Washington beat the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 Sunday in an NL playoff opener.The Nationals, who had never come close to making the playoffs since moving from Montreal for the 2005 season, overcame a wild start by 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez.Reliever Ryan Mattheus needed just two pitches to bail out the Nationals in the seventh with St. Louis ahead 2-1. Tyler Clippard worked around an error in the eighth and Drew Storen saved it with a 1-2-3 ninth.The NL East champion Nationals led the majors with 98 wins this season, and brought postseason baseball to Washington for the first time since 1933. The Nats go for a 2-0 series lead Monday when Jordan Zimmermann opposes Jaime Garcia.The Cardinals made it to the best-of-five division series by beating Atlanta in the wild-card matchup Friday. But St. Louis wasted a 10-strikeout gem by Adam Wainwright, failing to capitalize enough on Gonzalez's career high-tying seven walks and frustrating its towel-waving fans.A standing room crowd of 47,078, among the largest at 7-year-old Busch Stadium, bundled up for a game that began in 54-degree chill and featured kaleidoscope late-afternoon shadows that bedeviled hitters for several innings.Rookie shortstop Pete Kozma misplayed Michael Morse's grounder for an error to open the eighth and set up the Nationals' go-ahead rally. Ian Desmond followed with a single off Mitchell Boggs for his third hit of the game, putting runners at the corners.Danny Espinsoa sacrificed, leaving runners at second and third, and Kurt Suzuki struck out. In a series of moves, the Nationals sent up Chad Tracy to pinch hit, the Cardinals switched to lefty Marc Rzepczynski and Washington subbed in Moore, who had two of their three pinch homers this season.Moore poked an outside pitch to right field and both runners scored easily.Wainwright became the first Cardinals pitcher to reach double digits in strikeouts since Bob Gibson also fanned 10 to beat the Tigers in Game 4 of the 1968 World Series.Wainwright was a 14-game winner coming off reconstructive elbow surgery that sidelined him all of 2011, with 10 of the wins coming at home. He's been a postseason ace with a microscopic 0.77 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 23 1-3 innings.He fanned Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman twice each and seventh-place hitter Espinosa all three times.Gonzalez allowed just one hit in five innings, on David Freese's full-count bouncer between third and short to start the fourth. But he had trouble finding catcher Kurt Suzuki's glove.The second inning was Gonzalez' shakiest when he allowed the Cardinals to score twice and take the lead without a hit. Gonzalez walked four of the first five hitters, putting St. Louis in position to score one run on a wild pitch and a second on Jon Jay's bases-loaded sacrifice fly.Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth robbed Daniel Descalso of a two-run homer off with a leaping catch to keep it at 2-1 in the sixth. Descalso had a fielding gem of his own in the seventh, ranging far to his left to glove Harper's grounder and then throwing him out by a few steps.

Zardes, Pulisic help US top Bolivia 4-0 in final Copa tuneup

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Zardes, Pulisic help US top Bolivia 4-0 in final Copa tuneup

By TATE STEINLAGE, Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) -- Gyasi Zardes had his first two-goal international game, 17-year-old Christian Pulisic became the youngest American scorer in the modern era and the United States routed Bolivia 4-0 in an exhibition Saturday night to sweep its three warmup matches for next month's Copa America.

Zardes scored in the 26th and 52nd minutes around defender John Brooks' goal in the 37th. Pulisic, the youngest foreigner to score in the Bundesliga, got the final goal in the 69th minute. At 17 years, 253 days, he bettered the mark set by Juan Agudelo (17-359) against South Africa in 2010.

The 29th-ranked Americans had their largest victory margin against a South American opponent, beat opponents from that continent in consecutive matches for the first time and swept their three warmup matches by a combined 8-1 after defeating Puerto Rico and Ecuador.

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At the Copa America, the U.S. plays fourth-ranked Colombia on Friday in the opener at Santa Clara, California, then faces Costa Rica four days later at Chicago and closes the first round versus Paraguay on June 11 at Philadelphia.

Alejandro Bedoya assisted on the first two goals against 79th-ranked Bolivia.

The U.S. went ahead after Geoff Cameron played a 20-yard pass to Clint Dempsey, who flicked the ball to Bedoya on the right flank. He in turn lofted a one-touch pass over a shoulder of Zardes, who streaked past defender Nelson Cabrera and let the ball take a bounce. Zardes one-timed a right-footed shot from 19 yards over onrushing goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra, who was making his international debut.

Brooks doubled the lead after U.S. captain Michael Bradley rolled a through pass on a free kick from 35 yards out to Bedoya, who burst past Carmelo Algaranaz and from the corner of the 6-yard box made a sliding cutback pass in front of the goal. Brooks, 21, redirected the ball in with his left foot from 7 yards for his third international goal. Brooks scored late against Ghana to win the Americans' 2014 World Cup opener and also got a goal in an exhibition win at the Netherlands last year.

Zardes, 25, scored again after playing the ball back to Bradley in midfield. He lofted a pass to Bobby Wood on the left side of the goal, Wood crossed to Zardes, who beat defender Luis Gutierrez and scored again with his left foot, this time from 6 yards. Zardes has five goals in 26 national team appearances.

Pulisic, who made debuts for Borussia Dortmund in January and the U.S. in March, scored after Jermaine Jones forced a turnover. Jones exchanged passes with Darlington Nagbe, who ran past three Bolivians and rolled the ball into Pulisic's path. The teenager slid the ball to Viscarra's left from right of the penalty spot, causing many in the crowd of 8,894 to chant his name.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann shifted Matt Besler, normally a central defender, to left back in his starting lineup and started Michael Orozco at right back. Fabian Johnson replaced Besler at the start of the second half and DeAndre Yedlin came in for Orozco, joining Brooks and Cameron in central defense, the first time the likely back four for the match against Colombia played together. Cameron had not played since injuring a hamstring in Stoke's season finale on May 15.

Bedoya and Jones flanked Bradley, who dropped back in a defensive midfield role; Zardes and Wood played aside Dempsey; and Brad Guzan started his fourth straight match in goal, making the lineup for the first 18 minutes of the second half the possible starting 11 against Colombia. That array was broken up when Pulisic and Nagbe replaced Zardes and Bedoya.

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Gonzalez struggles for second straight outing as Nats fall to Cardinals

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USA TODAY Sports

Gonzalez struggles for second straight outing as Nats fall to Cardinals

Postgame analysis of the Nationals' 9-4 loss to the Cardinals on Saturday night at Nats Park. 

How it happened: The Cardinals offense didn't waste much time in this one, jumping on Nats starter Gio Gonzalez by building a 4-0 second-inning lead thanks to three straight two-out hits with men on base. Washington briefly got back in the game in the bottom of the frame as Ryan Zimmerman launched a two-run home run to cut the deficit to 4-2. 

However, the tough times continued for Gonzalez. He promptly yielded a solo shot to Matt Holliday in the third, and then in the fifth gave up an RBI double to Randal Grichuk to make it 6-2 St. Louis, ending the lefty starter's night earlier than he or the Nats would have liked.

Washington would get two runs back on solo home runs from Bryce Harper and Zimmerman, but the red-hot Cards lineup was simply too much on this night. Matt Adams came through with a pinch-hit two-run double to pad the lead to 8-4 and essentially put things out of reach. 

What it means: After starting the season series off with four straight against the Cardinals, the Nats have now dropped back-to-back games to St. Louis. At 29-21, Washington is still in a virtual tie for first place in the NL East with the New York Mets. 

Another rough outing for Gio: Well, so much for the idea of Jose Lobaton spurring a rebound start for Gonzalez. Even though he was throwing to his usual catcher this time, Gio struggled for the second straight outing, allowing six earned runs on six hits and four walks over 4 2/3 frames. What doomed him the most Saturday? His inability to finish innings when he was ahead in the count. Though he had multiple opportunities in two-strike, two-out situations to exit a frame unscathed, he instead allowed a series of crippling run-scoring hits. Indeed, five of the six runs Gonzalez yielded against the Cards came with two down, a frustrating stat considering that there were moments where he looked like he was going to settle down. 

Daniel Murphy, record breaker: In only his second regular season month with his new team, Daniel Murphy has already etched his name in the Nats record books. His second-inning single was his 41st hit in May, breaking Denard Span's club mark for hits in a month. Murphy's average on the season is now at an eye-popping .390 through nearly two months. 

Up next: The Nats will look to salvage a series split Sunday afternoon as they send Stephen Strasburg (8-0, 2.79 ERA) to the mound to oppose the Cardinals' Michael Wacha (2-5, 5.04). 

Best dressed: Sager, KD's mom, Westbrook or KD?

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Best dressed: Sager, KD's mom, Westbrook or KD?

If you are an NBA fan, you know about Craig Sager and his phenomenal outfits. As a sideline reporter for TNT, Sager is known just as much for his attire as he is for his reporting.

For example, here's a look at what he is wearing for Saturday's Game 6 between Oklahoma City and Golden State.

As phenomenal as he may look, he just may have met his match in Oklahoma City from an unexpected source: Kevin Durant's mom.

I don't know, I think she's got him beat.

Not to be out done are the players themselves of course. Russell Westbrook always brings his A game when it comes to outfits, and Saturday was no different.

Remember when Charlie Sheen kept talking about tiger blood? I'm pretty sure he was talking about this jacket.

Kevin Durant is taking his fashion style onto the court with messages written on his shoes.

Pretty soon the NBA Playoffs will need its own red carpet show.

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