Werth's HR, Ross' start lead Nats past Cards

Werth's HR, Ross' start lead Nats past Cards

ST. LOUIS -- For the second straight game, the Nationals parlayed a four-run inning into a road victory over the Cardinals, this time claiming a 6-1 win on Saturday at Busch Stadium behind another strong performance from starter Joe Ross and an early three-run home run by Jayson Werth. The victory gave the Nationals their first series win in St. Louis since May 2007, and they will go for their first sweep here Sunday.

"All signs are pointing in the right direction right now," Werth said. "We just need to keep it going. We have a long, tough road trip, and it's good to get it started that way we have. We'll see if we can build on it."

For the Cardinals, the loss wrapped up a month in which they went 1-7 against teams with winning records.

"The only record that matters is the one you end up with," quipped Brandon Moss, after the Cardinals finished April at 12-12 overall. 

Murphy's RBI single

The Nationals -- whose 16-7 record in April is the best start in franchise history -- did most of their damage off lefty Jaime Garcia during a 23-pitch first inning. An infield single off Garcia's glove and a two-out walk to Ryan Zimmerman brought up Daniel Murphy, who delivered his second RBI single of the series. Werth followed with his three-run shot, his fourth long ball of the season.

"I have to make better pitches in tough situations," Garcia said. "It was a changeup. I thought it stayed too much in the middle of the plate. I mean, my job is to keep us in the ballgame and give us a chance to win, and I didn't do that today." 

Garcia rebounded and allowed only one other hit over the rest of his 6 1/3-inning performance, but it didn't matter. The Cardinals couldn't push across a run until the fifth, and even then, Ross limited them to one. The Nats right-hander, whose last start was cut short due to a right middle finger blister, scattered six hits and two walks.

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Ross handles the Cards

Picking up where he left off: This was Ross' first start since April 20 after the blister forced the Nationals to skip his last turn through the rotation. But Ross picked up where he left off from his previous outings, spinning six strong innings of one-run ball. He has been one of the Nationals' best pitchers to start the year, and owns a 0.79 ERA through his first four starts.

"It felt normal. I felt good," Ross said. "I think my [velocity] was up a little bit, but I felt strong. There wasn't really an inning or two of trying to settle in. I felt good from the get-go. I think the time off paid off."

Missed opportunities: The Cardinals went 0-for-5 against Ross with runners in scoring position and squandered the chance for a big fifth inning that could have cut into Washington's lead. After Jeremy Hazelbaker drew a one-out walk to load the bases, Matt Carpenter lined a sacrifice fly to center to plate the Cardinals' first run. But that was all they could get, as Matt Holliday grounded out to end the threat.

"Just one of those days we couldn't put a lot together," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We had hits. It's just a matter of getting them at the right time."

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Carpenter's sac fly

Come out swinging:  Nationals manager Dusty Baker said before the game the key to facing Garcia was to score runs off him early, which has been one of Baker's team's strengths this season. Washington added to its impressive first-inning-runs total by hanging a four spot on the board in the first inning Saturday, with Werth delivering the biggest blast. Through their first 23 games, the Nationals have now scored 30 runs in the first inning.

"That was a big at-bat," Werth said. "The way things have been going, I feel like at times I can't catch a break. So it was good. It got us going. It got me going. Hopefully I can build on that and get this thing rolling."

Fielding foibles: The Cardinals committed three more errors, increasing their Major League-leading total to 24 to wrap up April. Two of the errors were charged to Hazelbaker, who made an errant throw in the first inning and then fumbled the ball while trying to field a single in the eighth. The Cardinals committed at least one error in 14 of their 24 games this month and already have half as many three-error games (three) as they did in all of 2015. There was also a mental error -- Matt Adams not cutting off a throw -- that eliminated a chance at throwing out a runner on the bases. That play immediately preceded Werth's three-run homer.

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Harper scores on an error

With a ninth-inning single, Aledmys Diaz joined Albert Pujols as the only rookies in Cardinals history to tally 30 hits in the month of April. Diaz led the Majors by hitting .423 this month.

Nationals: Max Scherzer will take the mound on Sunday at 2:15 p.m. ET, as the Nationals look for a sweep of the Cardinals. Scherzer, who attended nearby Parkway Central High School and the University of Missouri, will make his third career start at Busch Stadium, where he is 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA.

Cardinals: Carlos Martinez, one of six pitchers in the Majors to win his first four starts this season, will try to make it 5-for-5 when he makes his first career start against the Nationals on Sunday. First pitch for the Cardinals' series finale against Washington is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. CT.

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Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. 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.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.