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Split squad, split decision

The Cardinals divied up the team for the first of many split squad games Thursday, beating the Nationals at Jupiter while losing to the Mets on the road.

The home squad won a sloppy game over Washington by a 7-5 score. The Nationals made a pair of errors and the Cardinals made one. But that wasn't the whole story as there were several mistakes on the bases, a balk and some questionable throws. But, after falling behind 2-0 in the third, the Cardinals rallied with five runs in the fourth to take the lead for good.

Zack Cox doubled to lead off the inning and then moved to third on a wild pitch. Catcher Yadier Molina popped up for one out. But then Skip Schumaker walked to put runners at first and third. Cox took off with contact and scored on a fielder's choice grounder to first off the bat of Ramon Vazquez to score a run. Adron Chambers grounded out to leave Schumaker at second with two down. Then Ryan Theriot walked to load 'em up.

Colby Rasmus squibbed a ball up the middle for an infield hit with the bases loaded and two out to drive in the second run. Then Albert Pujols, who nearly missed a base-clearing double with a couple of two-strike foul balls, added an RBI on a walk. First baseman-outfielder Mark Hamilton singled to right driving in the fourth and fifth runs of the inning.

Rasmus, Pujols, Cox and Molina each collected a pair of hits to pace the offense. On the hill, Brandon Dixon threw three innings with four his and two runs allowed. Closer Ryan Franklin got the win with a pair of shutout inning in which he allowed three hits while striking out one Nationals hitter. Ian Snell made his Cardinals debut in relief and allowed four hits and two runs in two frames.

In Port St. Lucie, the Cardinals were shut out 3-0 by New York.

Lefty Jaime Garcia started for St. Louis and allowed one run on two hits over two innings. He was followed by P.J. Walters who lives and dies with his control as a soft tosser. Walters suffered an early demise Thursday with four walks and three hits allowed in 2 2/3 innings during which he allowed two earned runs.

Oliver Perez, who seems on the bubble to make the Mets despite his $12-million contract for 2011, took advantage of a St. Louis lineup thin on bona fide major leaguers. He threw a pair of shutout innings with two hits allowed.

Allen Craig was the only Cardinal to collect as many as two hits. He hit an impressive line drive for his second safety that one-hopped the left field wall. But he was thrown out by plenty at second base as the New York catcher apparent slapped some leg irons on him as he came out of the batters box.

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