Max Scherzer's third start of the Spring began with a three-pitch strikeout of St. Louis Cardinals' second baseman and leadoff man Kolten Wong.
Scherzer hit the next batter, but stranded the Cards' first baserunner at the end of a 13-pitch opening frame, striking out the side with low-to-mid 90s heat and a vicious slider.
Last time out, in start no.2 of Grapefruit League action, the 31-year-old, second-year Washington National labored a bit, throwing 37 pitches in a long first against the Houston Astros, but the eight-year veteran said the long frame was good preparation for the regular season after what ended up a 51-pitch, two-inning outing.
"It wasn't as efficient as I would like. I would have liked to have gone three innings," Scherzer told reporters, including MLB.com's Bill Ladson:
"The good thing is, I was able to pitch out of a jam. When you get into high-count situations, have guys that are battling you and you have to execute some pitches in a bases-loaded situation, that's stuff that gets you ready for the season. Even though you might not have liked the results, this stuff prepared me as much as anything."
Cards' outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker singled to center, stole second and scored on an RBI double by Carson Kelly with two down in the top of the second.
A two-out walk pushed Scherzer up to 20 pitches in the second, and 33 total on the afternoon, but an infield pop ended a 22-pitch frame that left the right-hander at 35 total after two.
Scherzer needed just nine pitches to retire the Cardinals in order in the third, leaving him at 44 total, and he came back out for the fourth, working around a two-out hit-by-pitch for a scoreless, 16-pitch frame that left him at 60 pitches.
• Max Scherzer's Line: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 60 P.
Before this afternoon's game, Nationals' skipper Dusty Baker hinted, as in didn't quite announce, that Scherzer would, predictably, be the Opening Day starter for the Nationals, telling reporters, including MASNSports.com's Pete Kerzel, "'He was opening day before I got here... you just want me to name him.'"
• The Nationals were swinging early and often against Cards' starter Michael Wacha in the first with Nats' leadoff man Ben Revere and Jayson Werth both singling in front of Bryce Harper, whose double to right drove Revere in, 1-0.
A wild pitch brought Werth home, 2-0, and Ryan Zimmerman singled to bring Harper in, 3-0. All in the first 15 pitches from Wacha.
• Danny Espinosa took a called strike three on a fastball inside from Wacha that he didn't particularly like, leaving him 0 for 1 today and 0 for 12 with six Ks so far this Spring. A groundout in his second at bat left Espinosa 0 for 13.
He was 0 for 14 after swinging over a 2-2 change in his third at bat of the afternoon.
• Matt Belisle retired the Cards in order in a quick, 10-pitch, 1-2-3 5th. Burke Badenhop worked around a one-out single in a scoreless, 12-pitch sixth. Rafael Martin needed nine pitches to set the Cardinals down in the seventh.
• Ryan Zimmerman went 1 for 3 with an RBI and a K in his first Grapefruit League game.
• The Cardinals scored three runs with Erik Davis on the mound in the eighth inning, tying it up at 3-3. Paul DeJong hit a two-out RBI single that put the Cardinals ahead, 4-3.
• Jason Martinson singled and scored (after a walk by Tyler Moore) on an RBI single by Pedro Severino that tied things up at 4-4. That's how it ended after nine innings.