WASHINGTON -- Drew Storen and the Nationals' bullpen will be remembered as the culprits for blowing a three-run lead, but Gio Gonzalez's second straight mediocre start left the door open for the Cardinals' stunning comeback on Friday.
Gonzalez, five days after earning a no-decision in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, again lasted only five innings in a 9-7 loss that ended Washington's season. The left-hander's pitch count rose steadily throughout the start, in which he allowed three runs on five hits. Gonzalez also walked four batters while striking out five.
Following the staggering loss, manager Davey Johnson addressed the use of his pitchers. Gonzalez was left in the game to reach 99 pitches, allowing one run in the fourth and another two in the fifth. Johnson said that while Storen simply could not throw his pitches over the plate, the closer wasn't alone in struggling that way. In total, Nats pitchers walked eight batters.
"It seemed like Gio had the problem," Johnson said. "You just can't win big ballgames by giving free passes. You've got to trust your defense behind you, go after them."
Gonzalez earned another no-decision, further muddying the results of his first career playoff action. After allowing two runs in five innings in Game 1, Gonzalez finished his first postseason with a 4.50 ERA, six hits, 11 walks and 10 strikeouts.
"I left winning, that's all that matters," Gonzalez said. "Gave the team a chance, and that's what they wanted out of me. I think we all battled, we all gave it all we had. We left it all on the field."
Aside from leaving Gonzalez in for five innings, Johnson also used another of his starters in a relief role for the second straight night. Like Jordan Zimmermann in Game 4, Edwin Jackson entered from the bullpen to pitch one inning.
While Zimmermann was dominant in striking out the side on Thursday, Jackson was ineffective, allowing one run on one hit while walking two batters and striking out two. His appearance in the game also came after Johnson indicated earlier in the day that Jackson would likely only be used if the game reached extra innings.
"You know, the problem with all the adversity we've gone through this year and then to give up that many free passes, you know, that's not the way you win ballgames," Johnson said. "It's tough. We've had a great year overcoming a lot of hardship, and to not go after them at the end was not fun to watch."
Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.