Zim, Taylor, Roark come out strong in win

Zim, Taylor, Roark come out strong in win

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Nationals earned their Grapefruit League-high 16th win on Saturday with a 7-0 victory over the Cardinals that featured a Ryan Zimmerman homer, several defensive gems and five scoreless innings from starter Tanner Roark.

Danny Espinosa provided the most memorable of those gems in the bottom of the second, throwing to Zimmerman at first to nab runner Tommy Pham.

Espinosa's strong throw

The Cardinals, who have won just one of their last 12 games, were, in contrast, sloppy in the field and unable to capitalize on several chances against Roark. The club left two runners on base in each of the first four innings and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The Cardinals also finished the day with five fielding errors by their infielders.

"That was not what we wanted to see," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It was just an ugly day. We have a guy [starter Mike Leake] we're trying to encourage to get the ball on the ground. He gets the ball on the ground; we have to make plays behind him. It was one of those days where it didn't happen, and it happened in bunches."

The first, by Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, complicated the fourth inning for Leake, who ended up allowing three runs in the frame. Zimmerman connected for a solo homer to put the Nationals ahead, 2-0. Wilson Ramos and Chris Heisey followed with hits, positioning both to score when Wong booted a ground ball off the bat of Espinosa.

Wong was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom half of the inning after suffering a left kneecap contusion diving for Ramos' ball. The Cardinals announced his status as day-to-day.

Six of Washington's eight starting position players had at least one hit off Leake, who threw 84 pitches (54 strikes) over five innings. Michael Taylor, who is now 20-for-40 this spring, helped Washington push across a first-inning run off Leake with his ninth extra-base hit.

Taylor's ground-rule double

Over five innings, Leake allowed seven hits and struck out seven. All four runs to score off him were earned. Leake entered the day having allowed one spring run in 11 innings. He also notched a hit and a walk of his own at the plate, and he made a slick defensive play to pick off Taylor at first in the fourth inning.

Leake catches Taylor

"It was a fairly good game," Leake said afterward. "I felt inconsistent, just a little out of whack. Maybe the heat made me a little out of shape today. Maybe I just wasn't prepared enough today. It's just a matter of fine-tuning a few things, making sure I'm getting the work in these next few days, because after that last one, it's for real."

Roark threw more pitches (90) than the Nationals would have liked over five innings, but he emerged unscathed despite pitching through several complicated innings. He scattered six hits and a walk, while striking out four.

Up next for the Cardinals: Left-hander Jaime Garcia will make his first Grapefruit League start since March 16 when he opposes Jose Fernandez and the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium on Sunday. The first pitch for the game, which will feature the Cardinals as the road team, is scheduled for 12:05 pm CT. This will be Garcia's first appearance since he threw 75 pitches in a minor league game to get work in pitching out of the stretch.

Up next for the Nationals: They play a split-squad doubleheader on Sunday against the Braves and Mets at Space Coast Stadium and Tradition Field, respectively. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez will get the start against the Braves, while Yusmeiro Petit will face the Mets. In his last start, Gonzalez allowed a run in 4 1/3 innings against the Astros. Petit, who is expected to be the long man out of the bullpen, is having a decent spring, allowing three runs in 8 1/3 innings.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.