Nats hit 3 HRs in beating the Cardinals

Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez throws during a spring training baseball workout Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, in Viera, Fla. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Craig Heist,

JUPITER, Fla. – It didn’t have nearly the intensity of Game 5 of the National League division series a year ago and the result was different as the Nationals beat the Cardinals 6-2 Saturday in a Grapefruit League game.

The rematch also featured the Game 5 starters from last September, Gio Gonzalez and Adam Wainwright. But it was Wainwright who got beat up early in this spring game giving up five runs, (four earned) in the second inning. He gave up two home runs during his stint.

Gonzalez, who last year in Game 5 allowed three runs on five hits with four walks and five strikeouts, gave up two runs on five hits Saturday while walking one and he did not have a strikeout.

It was Gonzalez’s second start of the spring and he will have one more before he heads to the World Baseball Classic to join Team USA when the team gets to Miami. He was happy with the results from his start.

“It was good,” Gonzalez said. “My arm feels good. My arm is healthy and I am where I want to be. Again, it’s about adjustments, little by little, it’s Spring Training and I’m sure everyone is doing the same thing. Everyone is making adjustments and working on what they need to work on. When you see your defense and offense coming alive and making good plays and putting the ball in play, it’s pretty exciting to see right now.”

Gonzalez threw 52 pitches, 31 for strikes, throwing mostly fastballs. The weather had a little bit to do with that as the temperature was in the 60’s and a there was a stiff breeze blowing out to right field.

“I thought he threw the ball good,” said manager Davey Johnson. “For some reason or another, the ball was really slippery today and he couldn’t get a good feel on it and didn’t throw too many breaking balls and really just stayed with his fastballs.”

Gonzalez left Game 5 last year with a 6-3 lead only to see the Cardinals come back and win as Drew Storen couldn’t hold a two-run lead, giving up a four-run ninth inning in a 9-7 loss that sent St. Louis to the National League Championship Series against the Giants.

Gonzalez was facing the Cardinals for the first time since that devastating loss.

“It was good to see some familiar faces,” Gonzalez said. “They’re all nice guys. Off the field they’re great guys, on the field, the same thing. They’re competitors, just like we are and I’m sure they were thinking the same things, go out and attack the strike zone and swing the bat. It’s the same thing we are trying to do. It’s Spring Training. There’s no rivalry yet.”

Booming bats

The Nationals hit three home runs on the day.

They scored four times in the second inning as Anthony Rendon hit a two-run blast to dead center field off Wainwright that hit three-quarters of the way up the batters eye. Chris Marrero singled in a run just before that and he also hit a solo homer to right. Later, Ian Desmond went deep to the opposite field.

Both Marrero and Rendon each has peace of mind knowing they are heading into this year injury free.

Rendon is hitting .438 with two homers and seven RBI and he feels like a burden has been lifted off his shoulders as he headed into this spring.

“You don’t have to get in the training room too early and get rubbed out or whatever you got to do. You can just go up there with a free mind and play the game you have been playing your whole life,” he said.

Marrero has seven hits in 21 at-bats, with a homer and three RBI’s.

“Yeah, this spring is different,” Marrero said. “I feel like when my name is called, I’m ready to go. I don’t have to be coming in and doing therapy or doing this and doing that and just worry about playing baseball.”


Washington Nationals’ Anthony Rendon, center, is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a home run during an exhibition spring training baseball game, Saturday, March 2, 2013, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Storen’s third outing

Nats reliever Drew Storen pitched the eighth inning and struck out the first two batters he faced but then gave up two hits and a walk to load the bases. He then got Justin Christian to pop out to end the inning.

Storen said he was happy overall with what he was working on. But when a reporter broached the subject of Game 5 against the Cardinals last year and if it crossed his mind at all, Storen rolled his eyes.

“If it felt weird and it was going through my head, then I shouldn’t be out there,” he said.

Returning the favor

The Nationals will be at Space Coast Stadium Sunday for a 1:05 p.m. game against the Cardinals. LHP Ross Detwiler will make his second start of the spring before heading off to the WBC in Arizona. LHP Jamie Garcia will throw for St. Louis.

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