ST. LOUIS -- The seventh inning turned into a horror show for the Nationals on Saturday night.
What could have gone wrong did go wrong for Washington. The inning featured a leadoff home run, two infield singles, a hit batter and two walks, including one with the bases loaded, as the Cardinals plated three en route to a 4-1 win in front of 44,785 at Busch Stadium.
Cards first baseman Matt Adams broke a 1-1 tie with a 399-foot shot into the St. Louis bullpen in right field to start the seventh. It was his fifth homer of the year, and his second in as many games since coming off the disabled list Friday.
"Generally, that ball doesn't go out of the ballpark," Washington manager Matt Williams said. "We tried to get him on a couple of changeups earlier in that at-bat and fell behind, and that's what those guys are paid to do."
Pinch-hitter Jon Jay reached on a two-out infield single that chased Nats starter Stephen Strasburg from the game. Jerry Blevins walked the lone batter he faced and Drew Storen hit a batter to load the bases before walking Matt Holliday to score a run. Allen Craig followed with an RBI infield single to make it 4-1 Cardinals.
"Drew, the ball slipped out of his hand on a curveball and then he hit him and then he kind of got all over the place," Williams said. "We got out of the inning, but the damage was done at that point. They've been good. The bullpen's been very good. It's going to have a hiccup every once in a while."
Strasburg gave up three runs on seven hits, struck out five and his lone walk was intentional in 6 2/3 innings. Strasburg still hasn't beaten the Cardinals in his career and fell to 0-2 against them in five career starts. He fell to 6-5 on the season.
"They've got really good pitching and they've got a great guy behind home plate and they just throw whatever he calls, it looks like," Strasburg said, referring to Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. "It's just trying to go out there and compete and it's a long season. It seems like they catch us when we're in a rut or whatever, and I can't really explain it."
Shelby Miller was impressive for the Cards. After surrendering a first-inning run, Miller struck out seven, walked four and gave up four hits through 6 2/3 innings.
Jayson Werth's double scored Anthony Rendon to give the Nationals a 1-0 lead in the first inning. It was the first run Washington had scored in 14 innings. After Strasburg retired the first eight Cardinals he faced, Miller helped his own cause with a rally-starting double with two outs in the third. Matt Carpenter followed with an RBI single to tie the game at 1.
Both starters were able to pitch out of trouble, thanks in part to defense behind them.
Jose Lobaton reached on a one-out single in the fifth. Strasburg attempted to bunt him to second, but Molina pounced on the ball and threw to second, getting Lobaton by a step. Denard Span popped to short to end the inning.
"They've got pretty good pitchers there," Lobaton said. "I don't want to say they're no good, but we've got to get adjustments and try to do better and better. We couldn't do it yesterday and today either, and we have to figure out how to score runs tomorrow. That's the only way we can win."
Mark Ellis reached with a one-out double in the Cardinals' sixth. Holliday followed with a sharp grounder to short. Instead of going to first with the throw, Washington's Ian Desmond threw behind Ellis to get him out at third. The play turned out to be valuable as Craig's single only moved Holliday to second instead of possibly scoring Ellis. Strasburg then got out of the inning by getting Molina to ground to third.
Miller tired in the seventh. Ryan Zimmerman led off with a single and Miller walked both Lobaton and Strasburg to load the bases with two outs. Miller was lifted for Randy Choate, who got Span to ground into a fielder's choice to end the threat.
Choate got the win and improved to 1-2, and Trevor Rosenthal picked up his 19th save.
"That was one of those grinding games that you know when you're 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.
After winning five of six to start the road trip, the Nationals have dropped their last three, scoring just two runs during that span.
"Last three games, it just hasn't been there for us," Williams said. "If we know anything, it can turn around in a hurry. We just have to be prepared for tomorrow."
Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.