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Washington Nationals 8-2 over St. Louis Cardinals: Max Scherzer Ks nine in five innings

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Max Scherzer piled up the Ks, Michael A. Taylor went 2 for 4 and hit one out the other way again and the Washington Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 8-2 this afternoon in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium.

Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Max Scherzer gave up two hits, a walk and one earned run in his last Grapefruit League outing before this afternoon's start against the St. Louis Cardinals, which took place against the same Cards back on March 13th.

"It was a good outing," Scherzer told reporters after that start, as quoted by the Associated Press.

"I attacked the zone, [got] a lot of first-pitch strikes. That was something I wanted to do today and I was able to accomplish. I just had more well-executed pitches.

"I attacked the zone, [got] a lot of first-pitch strikes. That was something I wanted to do today and I was able to accomplish. I just had more well-executed pitches." - Max Scherzer after 3/11 start vs St. Louis Cardinals

"I'm slowly getting more on line of how I want to execute all my off-speed, whether it's in the zone or out of the zone, and that's what's important."

Between Grapefruit League outings, Scherzer pitched against minor leaguers in what would have been his fourth start of the Spring, and manager Dusty Baker also announced that the 31-year-old right-hander will likely be the Nationals' Opening Day starter for the second straight season.

"I haven’t talked to [pitching coach] Mike [Maddux] about it but I’m assuming it’s Scherzer," Baker said, as quoted by Washington Post writer James Wagner. "He’s the man from the get-go. That’s a pretty good option right there."

This afternoon's turn in the rotation was Scherzer's next-to-last start before he takes the mound in the season opener on Monday April 4th in Atlanta.

Things didn't start too well this afternoon. Trea Turner booted a grounder to short when he couldn't make a backhand play and a walk to Stephen Piscotty and single by Brandon Moss followed as the Cardinals loaded the bases with no one out.

Jedd Gyorko went down swinging at a high heater for out no.1. Matt Adams K'd swinging over a two-strike cutter for out and K no.2... but St. Louis' center fielder Tommy Pham lined a two-out double to left, and by a diving Turner, 2-0 Cardinals.

Scherzer issued a leadoff walk to Greg Garcia in the first at bat of the Cards' second, but stranded him at third three outs later, adding his third K along the way. He added K no.4 in a quick, 1-2-3 third as he settled in.

Scherzer worked around an infield single by Brayan Pena in the fourth, striking Greg Garcia out for his fifth strikeout and throwing an 0-2 fastball by Adam Wainwright for K no.6.

He struck out the side around a two-out walk in the fifth, giving him nine Ks total (and three walks) in five innings.

Max Scherzer's Line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 Ks, 5/2 GO/FO.

GAME NOTES:

• Bryce Harper hit a two-out double in his first at bat this afternoon, improving to 10 for 29 with two doubles and two home runs so far in Grapefruit League action.

• The Wilson Ramos living LASIK commercial continued with a two-out single in the second, which left him 8 for 21 so far this Spring.

• Trea Turner had a rough first inning in the field, but in his second at bat in the home-half of the third, he singled and stole second base, improving to 8 for 33 at the plate and 7 for 7 on the basepaths so far this Spring. He was stranded at third three outs later, however.

• Michael A. R.I.S.P. Taylor stepped in against Adam Wainwright with two on and no one out after a single by Jayson Werth and a HBP on Anthony Rendon. Taylor's double left him 1 for 2 today (to that point) and 17 for 35 with four doubles and three home runs in fifteen Grapefruit League games. Tied at 2-2.

• Harper and Zimmerman hit back-to-back singles in the fifth and Jayson Werth and Anthony Rendon followed with back-to-back doubles as the Nationals added three runs for a 5-2 lead.

• Michael A. Taylor followed with a two-run, opposite field home run that made it 7-2. Updated Stats: 18 for 36, 4 doubles, 4 HRs.

• Rafael Martin retired the Cardinals in order in the top of the sixth. Trevor Gott gave up a one-out single in the top of the seventh, but got an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP out of Kolten Wong.

• Nick Masset gave up a two-out double and a walk, but completed a scoreless eighth and the Nationals added to their lead in the bottom of the inning when Brendan Ryan walked and scored on an RBI double by Chris Heisey.

• Shawn Kelley worked around a leadoff single and one-out and two-out walks for a scoreless ninth. Final Score: 8-2 Nationals.