On the heels of an atrocious performance Thursday night, Matt Williams challenged his players to return to the park Friday with renewed focus and desire. The Nationals responded in kind, delivering the kind of well-played ballgame Williams had been seeking all along.

Gio Gonzalez and Michael Wacha matched pitch-for-pitch, with Wacha allowing only Anthony Rendon’s solo homer in the third and Gonzalez allowing only one run in the fourth. The game remained tied 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh, when the Nationals threatened and then finally took advantage of some sloppy St. Louis mistakes, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs on a wild pitch and subsequent error (the Cardinals’ third of the game).

Up a couple of runs late, the Nationals did make things interesting. Tyler Clippard put two men on and needed a whopping 26 pitches to face only three batters (retiring the last). So Williams summoned Drew Storen to pitch out of the jam, and the right-hander delivered big-time by getting Matt Holliday and Allen Craig and stranding the tying runner in scoring position.

Rafael Soriano then finished things off in the ninth, securing a much-needed win for a Nationals club that had not beaten the Cardinals since Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS, losing eight straight in between.