Ryan Ludwick homer lifts Cardinals over Nationals

With two outs and the game tied 2-2, the St. Louis outfielder drove a pitch from reliever Tyler Clippard over the left field wall to give the home team their second straight win against Washington.

"It was a terrible pitch," Clippard told reporters of Ludwick's blast. "Cutter, trying to go away and I threw a nice little cement mixer up there for him -- middle in -- and he hit it out."

Cardinals (23-17) starter Chris Carpenter improved to 5-1 after allowing two runs in eight innings and Ryan Franklin pitched the ninth for his ninth save of the season.

The Nationals (20-20) lost their season-high fifth straight game despite coming back from a two-run hole and tying the game in the eighth on Ian Desmond's RBI single.

The run was set up when Ryan Zimmerman reached on a throwing error and Josh Willingham was hit by a pitch from Carpenter.

The St. Louis right-hander also allowed a fifth-inning home run by Wil Nieves.

"I felt fine. I worked hard all night long," Carpenter said after throwing 118 pitches. "It had nothing to do with the hundred and whatever pitches I threw."

The Cardinals provided their pitcher a 2-0 advantage in the third when Felipe Lopez belted a two-run homer in his second game off the disabled list from an elbow injury.

(Reporting by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Rex Gowar/Ian Ransom)