ST. LOUIS — Tyler Lyons did well enough as a fill-in starter for the St. Louis Cardinals, Brandon Moss hit another mammoth home run and the offense erased a seventh-inning deficit for the third straight game.
They just ended up a couple of hits shy.
"Today we just couldn't pull it off," manager Mike Matheny said Wednesday night after a 4-3 loss to the Washington Nationals. "Once again, we showed a lot of life, we showed a lot of fight, getting us right there at the doorstep again."
Lyons had six strikeouts the first time through the order and allowed three runs in six innings. His only trouble was giving up the long ball.
"I thought I made pretty good pitches for the most part," Lyons said. "Three I'd definitely like to have back for sure."
"Both pitches I definitely didn't execute," Lyons said about Zimmerman's homers. "I don't know what the result would have been had I executed."
"Overall, I thought he did a real nice job," Matheny said. "He had a nice mix of everything and was really impressive at times."
The Nationals ended their nine-game losing streak at St. Louis. Zimmerman reached 200 career home runs with his second shot.
Nationals starter Max Scherzer struck out 11, gave up 11 hits and left with a 3-2 lead after the sixth.
Jonathon Papelbon earned his 23rd save in 23 chances, escaping a first-and-third, one-out jam in the ninth. Rafael Martin (1-0) got one out for his first career victory
Moss hit a 454-foot homer leading off the second for St. Louis, which leads the Pirates by six games in the NL Central with 29 to play. Moss homered in consecutive at-bats, following up on his game-winning three-run shot Tuesday night.
"It feels good, especially against a guy like Scherzer," Moss said. "In that at-bat, I was battling and I finally got a pitch to do something with."
Kolten Wong had three hits for the Cardinals in their second loss in 11 games. It was a much bigger deal for the Nationals, who avoided a three-game sweep.
"I've been saying, 'Wait till September, till September,'" Scherzer said. "Now, here it is."
Moss led off the second against Scherzer with the longest home run by a left-hander at 10-year-old Busch Stadium and the fifth-longest overall.
The Nationals answered with homers by Werth in the third and Zimmerman in the fourth and sixth. Zimmerman has 16 homers in an injury-abbreviated season, four in this series.
Nationals: OF Bryce Harper (left glute tightness) was removed before the bottom of the fourth after going 0 for 2. ... Tanner Roark will replace Stephen Strasburg (back) in the rotation Friday against Atlanta. Strasburg is scheduled for a bullpen session Thursday and could pitch as soon as Saturday. ... OF Michael Taylor (right knee soreness) was a late lineup scratch.
Cardinals: OF Jon Jay (wrist) is close to returning to a now-crowded outfield. When Matt Holliday is ready, Matheny said: "Let's make no mistakes about it, when Matt's back and healthy we're going to find a spot for him."
Nationals: Jordan Zimmermann (11-8, 3.45) has won his last three starts and faces the Braves at home.
Cardinals: Carlos Martinez (13-6, 2.91) faces the Pirates on Friday to begin a weekend series with two extra days' rest. He's 2-1 with a 4.35 ERA against Pittsburgh, much better than Lance Lynn (0-2, 6.94), who is getting extra time.
LHP Nick Greenwood was optioned to Triple-A Memphis after the game. He had been called up earlier in the day.