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Nationals drop 7-1 decision to Cardinals: Gio Gonzalez sharp-ish, Bryce Harper homers...

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Bryce Harper homered for the fourth time this Spring, driving in the Nationals’ only run in a 7-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Gio Gonzalez started this afternoon’s game...

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at Washington Nationals Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Gio Gonzalez needed just 29 pitches to complete three scoreless against the St. Louis Cardinals last Saturday afternoon in Jupiter, Florida’s Roger Dean Stadium.

Gonzalez, 31, worked around a leadoff walk and one-out single in the first and second innings, respectively, with double play grounders erasing both baserunners, and then retired the Cards’ batters in order in his third and final inning of work in that outing.

West Palm Beach, Florida’s Ballpark of the Palm Beaches was the setting for today’s Grapefruit League game and Gonzalez’s second straight start against those same Cardinals.

It didn’t go quite as smoothly for the left-hander this afternoon, but Gonzalez gave up just one run on four hits in three innings of work, striking out four in a 53-pitch effort in what ended up a 7-1 loss to the Cardinals.

Here’s how it happened:

Gio Gonzalez gave up a leadoff single in the second this afternoon, after a 14-pitch, 1-2-3 first, but Stephen Piscotty, who lined the single to left, was thrown out trying to take second base by Nationals’ catcher Pedro Severino.

A groundout in his first at bat left Ryan Zimmerman 0 for 12 early this Spring. Try not to panic just yet. Zimmerman sent a fly to right in the fifth, 0 for 13. Okay, panic now!!!

After working around two singles in the second, Gio Gonzalez gave up back-to-back one-out singles by Eric Fryer and Dexter Fowler and a base-loading walk to Kolten Wong in the third, which pushed him up to 42 pitches.

Jhonny Peralta hit a sac fly to right to bring Fryer in and give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.

Gio Gonzalez’s Line: 3.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks, 53 P, 32 S.

Trevor Gott took over on the mound for the Nationals in the fourth inning and gave up three singles, a walk and three runs, all earned, though, some of the damage was caused by a misplay on a catchable fly... (see below):

Adam Eaton lost a Matt Adams’ fly ball in the sun in the fourth, letting the ball drop in about seven feet (announcer’s estimate) from him as the Cardinals loaded the bases with no one out.

A one-out single by Eric Fryer drove in two runs, 3-0, and two more scored after Matt Grace took over on the mound, with Adams scoring on an error by Stephen Drew, and Fryer scoring on a Kolten Wong single, 5-0. Wong then scored on a wild pitch/play at the plate, 6-0.

Bryce Harper connected for the Nats’ first hit of the day against Mike Leake, taking the Cards’ right-hander deep to right field for a two-out solo home run in the fourth.

It was Harper’s 4th blast of the Spring and his 7th hit in 21 Grapefruit League ABs. 6-1 StL.

Joe Blanton retired the Cardinals in order in his Spring debut in the sixth inning.

Jimmy Cordero gave up a walk and a triple to the first two batters he faced in the seventh as the Cards jumped out to a 7-1 lead.

Wilmer Difo improved to 10 for 23 on the Spring with a one-out single in the bottom of the eighth, connecting on what was just the third hit of the day for the Nationals.

Koda Glover retired the Cardinals in order in the top of the ninth, giving him four scoreless innings this Spring, in which he’s allowed just one hit while striking out seven of the batters he’s faced.

• The Nationals did not rally in the bottom of the ninth.

Final Score: 7-1 Cardinals.