Gorman, Nootbaar homer as Cardinals beat Nationals 6-2; Soto 1 for 4

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WASHINGTON — Nolan Gorman and Lars Nootbaar hit back-to-back homers in the sixth inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals 6-2.

Washington’s Juan Soto went 1 for 4 in what could be his final homestand with Tuesday’s trade deadline looming. The Nationals were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

Miles Mikolas (8-8) allowed two runs in seven innings for St. Louis, which won consecutive games for the first time since July 15-16.

Anibal Sanchez lost his third consecutive start for Washington, which has a majors-worst record of 34-67.

Sanchez (0-3) pitched into the sixth inning for the first time this season, and nearly escaped trailing just 3-1. Gorman hit a two-run homer to right on a full count to break the game open.

Nootbaar then went deep on a liner to right-center to end Sanchez’s night. The home run came a pitch after Washington catcher Keibert Ruiz scampered to track down a pop foul, only to have it bounce out of his glove. He was not charged with an error on the play.

St. Louis took the lead with three runs in the third. Dylan Carlson and Paul Goldschmidt had run-scoring groundouts sandwiched around Sanchez’s run-scoring wild pitch.

Sanchez allowed six runs in 5 2/3 innings in his first outing against St. Louis since taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 2019 NLCS.

Washington scored on sacrifice fly balls by Luis Garcia in the second and Josh Bell in the sixth. The Nationals failed to muster any other offense against Mikolas, who gave up six hits and a walk while striking out four.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: C Yadier Molina (right knee) was 0 for 3 with a hit by pitch and a stolen base as the designated hitter Thursday in the first game of his rehabilitation assignment with Memphis. Molina is expected to catch Saturday and Sunday. . RHP Drew VerHagen (right hip) threw a side session Friday. . RHP Jack Flaherty (shoulder) threw a side session Thursday in the Los Angeles area. Manager Oliver Marmol said he could join the team in St. Louis next week. . OF Harrison Bader (right foot) will wear a protective boot for the next two weeks.

Nationals: RHP Reed Garrett (biceps inflammation) pitched a scoreless inning Friday in his first rehab appearance for Triple-A Rochester.

GREEN DAY

OF Elijah Green, the No. 5 overall pick in this year’s draft, took batting practice with Washington. Green signed July 22 and will report to the Nationals’ Florida Complex League affiliate Monday.

ROSTER MOVES

St. Louis removed 3B Nolan Arenado, C Austin Romine and Goldschmidt from the restricted list and optioned OF Conner Capel and C Ivan Herrera to Triple-A Memphis and outrighted INF Cory Spangenberg to Memphis.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: RHP Dakota Hudson (6-6, 4.10 ERA), who is 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA in six lifetime appearances against Washington, will come off the injured list to start Saturday.

Nationals: RHP Erick Fedde (5-7, 4.95), who is 0-2 with a 7.11 ERA, 11 strikeouts and 13 walks in four July starts, draws the start as the series continues.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.