WASHINGTON – The St. Louis Cardinals lost their third straight game — and maybe their All-Star shortstop, too.
Rafael Furcal might return home from the team's road trip for further tests after straining his right elbow in an 8-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on Thursday night.
Furcal was asked whether he was concerned the injury could end his season.
"Sort of," he said. "It's bad."
With the defending champion Cardinals in the thick of the NL wild-card chase, Furcal left after making back-to-back throws to home and second in the sixth inning. He said he felt a pop and then tingling. He will have an MRI on Friday.
"My wish is nothing crazy," said Furcal, who has never had elbow problems before.
The Cardinals, shut out in consecutive games by Pittsburgh before arriving in Washington, got on the board when Bryan Anderson led off the eighth with a double and scored on third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's throwing error. That ended the Cardinals' streak of 28 scoreless innings, their longest drought since going 33 innings without scoring in 1995.
"Nothing we can put our finger on," manager Mike Matheny said. "No explanation at this point."
Jaime Garcia (3-6) allowed six runs over 5 1-3 innings. St. Louis has a half-game lead over the Pirates in the race for the NL's second wild-card spot.
Furcal, a speedy switch-hitter, is batting .264 with five home runs and 49 RBIs.
"You can't really describe it as losing a piece right now until we get all the information," Matheny said. "He's been a phenomenal part of this team. He's had a great season."
Bryce Harper hit his third home run in two games, Jayson Werth homered for the first time since May, and Edwin Jackson struck out 10 for the Nationals.
Jackson (8-9) was so dominant over eight innings that three of his strikeouts required throws to first because the Cardinals were chasing balls in the dirt.
The victory moved the NL East-leading Nationals 5½ games ahead of the idle Atlanta Braves. Washington's recent five-game losing streak has tightened the race again, but manager Davey Johnson's team has come out of the funk with 16 runs in two games.
A day after his first two-homer game, Harper hit a drive so hard that it short-hopped the back wall of the Nationals' bullpen and bounced all the way back over the right-field fence. It was a two-run shot in the first inning, and the teenager followed by hitting the ball even farther in the third — only to have it caught on the warning track near the 402-foot mark in straightaway center.
Some in the crowd gave him a standing ovation as he returned to the dugout.
NOTES: St. Louis LF Matt Holliday singled in the first for his 1,500th career hit. ... Cardinals C Yadier Molina, run over by Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison on Tuesday, was medically cleared to play just a few hours before Thursday's game. He went 0 for 2 with a walk. "I really didn't want to pass on the struggles that I had and automatically throw them on to him," said Matheny, whose playing career ended in 2007 due to a concussion. "Just because I had a soft squash doesn't mean that he does. It's not fair to him. The conversation we had was, 'Hey, if you pass the tests and the doctors say it's OK, I'm not going to stop you. But I'm going to be extra cautious, because I know more about this than any one person should know.'" ... Gio Gonzalez starts for the Nationals on Friday night, facing Adam Wainwright.