Strasburg gets work in before Nats top Cards with big 6th
Starter fans two in debut, exits in shaky 2nd; Skole, Difo each smack two-run singles
By Jamal Collier
VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals' Stephen Strasburg wasn't at his sharpest in his first Grapefruit League start during Saturday's 6-5 win over the Cardinals at Space Coast Stadium. After retiring the side in order in the first inning, he gave up two runs on three hits, walking two, in a 28-pitch second inning. He was removed from the game for right-hander A.J. Cole after throwing 40 pitches in 1 2/3 innings. Strasburg also struck out two.
The Nationals tagged Cardinals right-hander Carlos Villanueva for a four-run sixth inning thanks to a pair of two-run singles from Matt Skole and Wilmer Difo.
Jaime Garcia was making his first start since last June, and he was expected to throw around 30 pitches. He got through a scoreless first inning, but needed 25 pitches to do so.
Garcia also ran into trouble in the second, getting into three-ball counts on all three hitters he faced. A run scored on a sacrifice fly from Jeff Kobernus, before Garcia was taken out of the game with 41 pitches. Garcia, trying to make the Cardinals' rotation as a fifth starter after thoracic outlet surgery, ended up with a line of one earned run on three hits, one walk and one strikeout in 1 1/3 innings.
Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk, who had been slowed earlier this Spring with lower back soreness, blasted the first pitch he saw from Cole in the third inning for a home run.
Cole allowed two runs (one earned) on two hits in 2 1/3 innings.
Up next for the Nationals: The Nationals travel to Tampa, Fla., to play the Yankees at George Steinbrenner Field on Sunday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. ET in a game airing on MLB.TV and Gameday Audio. Doug Fister will make his Spring Training debut for Washington. He led the Nats in wins (16) and ERA (2.41) last season, and enters 2015 in the final year of his contract.
Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.