Cardinals hurler Jaime Garcia three five super innings Thursday against the Nationals, allowing only three hits while striking out nine of the 18 hitters he faced.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis offense battered the Nationals pitching staff en route to a 9-0 victory at Roger Dean Stadium.
The first Cardinals run was an ugly one. With Shane Robinson on third and Tony Cruz on first in the bottom of the second inning with one out, Garcia struck out. Cruz took off on a delayed steal designed to draw a throw. When the catcher hurled the ball in the general direction of second, Robinson headed for home and scored easily. The throw sailed several feet wide of second base and Cruz could have made it safely had he kept running. But he stopped and headed toward first to allow the run to score while he was in the rundown. The relay back to the first baseman was dropped and he could have made it back to first at that point. But Cruz tried to make it to second and was tagged out to end the inning with the Birds up 1-0.
In the third the Redbirds got a one out double to left from Carlos Beltran and a walk by Matt Holliday. With the runners moving, David Freese grouded to third but the runners advanced. Yadier Molina then hit a two-out single to push two more runs across the plate to put St. Louis up 3-0.
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The game was blown open in the fourth when the Cardinals tagged Nationals starter Geo Gonzalez for five runs as he struggled to get his spring work in with poor control in the strike zone.
Robinson singled to lead off the inning and he scored when Cruz doubled. Tyler Greene homered to drive in two more, then Beltran walked, Adron Chambers doubled and Matt Carpenter singled to make the score 8-0.
Robinson hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth to push across the final Cardinals run.
The St. Louis bullpen allowed only one hit in its four innings of work. Marc Rzepczynski and JC Romero pitched perfect frames while Jason Motte allowed no hits but two walks. Scott Linebrink -- who hasn't allowed a run yet this spring -- allowed the lone safety.