Opening Day starter fans nine in six superb innings; Barrett loses command in relief
By Bill Ladson and Jenifer Langosch
JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha and Nationals Opening Day starter Max Scherzer were engaged in a terrific pitchers' duel to start Wednesday's matchup at Roger Dean Stadium, before the Cards broke through in the eighth inning for a 1-0 victory.
Nats reliever Aaron Barrett began the inning by hitting Kolten Wong with a pitch, and pinch-runner Charlie Tilson stole second base after Wong was removed. Barrett then uncorked a wild pitch, advancing Tilson to third, and Ty Kelly drove him home with a sacrifice fly. After Barrett exited, Rafael Martin struck out Stephen Piscotty with the bases loaded to end the damage.
Digging deep: With a strikeout of Scherzer to end the second inning, Wacha quelled the only serious threat Washington put up against him. Wacha stranded runners at the corners that inning and scattered just two other singles over the rest of his 5 2/3-inning performance. In what was his deepest start of the spring, Wacha threw 78 pitches, 48 for strikes.
Showing resolve: Scherzer was dominant on the mound, pitching six shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out nine. The only time he was in trouble was in the fifth inning. After Yadier Molina singled with one out and Jon Jay followed with a double, Scherzer struck out Wong and Wacha to end the threat.
On display:Sam Freeman, who is auditioning for a spot in the Cardinals' bullpen, had his first 1-2-3 relief appearance of the spring. Freeman took over in the seventh inning and made his first walk-free appearance of Grapefruit League play. Freeman's roster situation is complicated by the fact that he is out of Minor League options. But the Cardinals need to see consistent command from the lefty in order to award him with a bullpen job.
"I was happy with it. [I'm] just continuing to go out there and working on the pitches and strikes, fastball command, down in the zone. Hopefully, I'm on the right track going forward from here." -- Wacha, on his fourth spring start
"Where I really got my work in, I got in a jam in the fifth. I had to go back and dig out of it, and I had to go back out for the sixth and got the pitch count up. I got a lot out of it from the physical standpoint." -- Scherzer
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Three weeks into the Cardinals' Grapefruit League season, Piscotty stands as the lone player to have appeared in all 18 of the team's games. He kept that streak alive on Wednesday by entering the game in the top of the eighth.
Wacha went 13 2/3 spring innings before issuing his first walk and has allowed just that one in his 15 1/3 total Grapefruit League innings. The only National League pitcher to walk fewer in at least as many spring innings is Philadelphia's David Buchanan.
Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter left the game after two innings due to a right quad contusion. Carpenter was hit on the leg by a Scherzer pitch in the first inning. Carpenter, who is 8-for-23 in Grapefruit League play, was replaced in the field by Pete Kozma.
Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth (right shoulder) was more aggressive while taking batting practice Wednesday, according to manager Matt Williams. He was scheduled to play five innings -- defense only -- in a Minor League game. So far, he hasn't had problems throwing the baseball.
Five days after his successful spring debut, Adam Wainwright will take the mound on Thursday, when the Cardinals host the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 12:05 pm CT and will be broadcast live on MLB.TV. Wainwright, who lines up to be the team's Opening Day starter, threw four shutout innings in a start against the Braves last week. This will be the second of three scheduled spring starts that he'll make.
The Nationals return to Space Coast Stadium on Thursday to play the Mets at 5:05 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez will get the start for Washington. In his last outing, Gonzalez pitched four shutout innings in a 0-0 tie with the Tigers. The Mets have taken two out of three games from the Nationals this spring.