WASHINGTON - Lance Lynn needed only a few words to describe a 13-pitch at-bat.
"Three-two heater. He beat me."
There were more questions for the St. Louis Cardinals reliever, of course, but the answers were more or less the same. He went mano-a-mano with Jayson Werth in the bottom of the ninth inning of a playoff game, losing the battle when the Washington leadoff hitter put the baker's dozen offering off the back wall of the visitor's dugout beyond left field.
"Everyone in the stadium knew what I was throwing there," Lynn said. "Tip your cap to him. The guy can play, and he beat me."
The Nationals' 2-1 win Thursday in Game 4 kept the Cardinals from clinching the NL division series, and now there will be a decisive Game 5 in Washington on Friday. It'll be hard to top this one - with Werth going strike, strike, ball, ball, foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, ball and foul before launching the hit that had him circling the bases, tossing his helmet high and leaping into a pile of teammates at home plate.
"He battled that whole at-bat, and I was making good pitches, making my pitches, and you know, he won," Lynn said. "It was just a matter of time. I was challenging him, and he was up for it."
It's the kind of the playoff moment all at Nationals Park will remember for a long time. The tension was building with each of the 13 pitches, the sellout crowd ready to explode.
"I guess for the pitcher and the hitter, the pressure on them have to be unbelievable," Cardinals star Carlos Beltran said. "Because Werth is battling, and our pitcher's trying to get him out. He ended up winning that battle right there, but we have one more day."
The Cardinals wasted a stellar effort by Kyle Lohse, who allowed just two hits over seven innings with five strikeouts and a walk, his only miscue coming on Adam LaRoche's dead-center homer in the second.
Mitchell Boggs handled the eighth, and rookie manager Mike Matheny opted to go with Lynn - a starter relegated to the bullpen for this series - rather than closer Jason Motte with the score tied in the ninth.
"Had a lot of confidence in Lance. He came in throwing the ball well. Werth just put together a very good at-bat."
The Cardinals had scored a combined 20 runs in Games 2 and 3, but they managed only one unearned tally against Nationals starter Ross Detwiler. Owasso graduate Pete Kozma circled the bases in the second inning by way of a walk, a sacrifice bunt, a booted grounder by shortstop Ian Desmond and a sacrifice fly.
Detwiler allowed three hits over six innings - the type of performance Washington needed after Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson were far from their best in Games 1-3.
It got worse for the Cardinals against the Nationals' relievers. Zimmerman, the Game 2 loser, struck out the side in the seventh in his first career relief appearance, and Tyler Clippard also notched three Ks in the eighth. Drew Storen got two more strikeouts in the ninth.
Although St. Louis is a wild-card team facing the club with the best record in baseball in the regular season, the intangibles should belong to the visitors Friday. While nearly to a man - Werth being an exception - the young Nationals are new to this sort of thing, the Cardinals have quite the postseason pedigree: Over the past two years, St. Louis is 5-0 in games where it faces elimination, including must-have victories in Games 6 and 7 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers.
On the mound will be Adam Wainwright, a 14-game winner who was a spectator during last year's title run while recovering from elbow reconstruction surgery.
"Of course I wish we would have won tonight, but you know what? This is every pitcher's dream, I would say," said Wainwright.
NLDS: series tied, 2-2
Cardinals vs. Nationals
1: Washington 3, St. Louis 2 Nats come from behind in Game 1
2: St. Louis 12, Washington 4 Cards shell Jordan Zimmerman
3: St. Louis 8, Washington 0 Carpenter, Kozma lead rout
4: Washington 2, St. Louis 1 Werth hits walkoff home run
5: 7:37 p.m. Friday, TBS-47 (Wainwright 14-13 vs. Gonzalez 21-8)
Games 1 and 2 in St. Louis, 3-5 in Washington
Original Print Headline: Werth's home run keeps Nats alive
Around the league
Game 5: San Francisco 6, Cincinnati 4 San Francisco wins series 3-2
Game 4: Baltimore 2, N.Y. Yankees 1 (13 innings). Series tied, 2-2
Game 5: Detroit at Oakland, late Series tied 2-2