Nationals ace Scherzer looks ready for opener, fans 9 Cards

St. Louis Cardinals
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JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Max Scherzer looked amply ready to start on opening day for Washington, striking out nine in six shutout innings during the Nationals’ 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.

Nationals manager Matt Williams recently announced that the newly acquired Scherzer would make his first career start in an opener. Washington begins at home against the New York Mets on April 6.

Making his fifth start of the spring, the former AL Cy Young Award winner allowed only three hits. He didn’t walk anyone and threw 59 of 82 pitches for strikes.

“That was a result of me executing pitches today,” Scherzer said. “I felt like I did a good job of generating swings and misses with all my pitches, but more importantly I didn’t walk anybody. I was pounding the zone.”

“I think I only fell behind two hitters, too, so that’s a more telling number than anything,” he said.

Scherzer also hit Matt Carpenter with a pitch. The Cardinals said he had a bruise on his right quadriceps.

“He wasn’t happy about it, but it was one of those things that it hit him kind of square on the quad and that can potentially lead to something else, so why mess with it?” manager Mike Matheny said.

Matheny also removed Kolten Wong as a precaution after the second baseman was hit by a pitch leading off the eighth.

Cardinals starter Michael Wacha also enjoyed a strong outing, giving up four hits in 5 2-3 innings and striking out four.

Wacha retired 13 of 14 batters at one stretch, a string only interrupted by his first walk this spring.

Ty Kelly hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

STARTING TIME

Nationals: Stephen Strasburg threw a bullpen on Tuesday and is ready to appear in a Grapefruit League game, manager Matt Williams said. Strasburg rolled an ankle in the weight room, causing him to miss what would have been his third scheduled spring start.

“We’ll just slate him in later on at the end of the week,” Williams said.

Cardinals: Matheny said John Lackey will start in Friday’s split-squad game at Roger Dean Stadium against the Mets, while Carlos Martinez will head to Viera to face the Nationals.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: Jayson Werth played only in the field in a minor league game on Wednesday. Afterward, he was scheduled to get more aggressive with his batting practice. Werth underwent offseason shoulder surgery and has yet to appear in an exhibition game.

“I’m encouraged by him,” Williams said. “There’s no issue with throwing, so that’s a good sign.”

Closer Drew Storen appeared in a minor league game on Wednesday. He underwent surgery to repair a broken non-throwing hand earlier this spring. He is expected to be ready for the start of the season.

Cardinals: Tommy Pham, whose candidacy for the final outfield spot is running out of time, did some running before the game but still isn’t ready to play because of a quad injury.

“I don’t think he’s that far away,” Matheny said.

MIDSEASON FORM

The Cardinals’ lineup looked much the same as it is expected to look once the season begins, which means Jon Jay hitting seventh and Wong batting eighth. To Matheny, that’s a formidable look.

“That’s not a whole lot of time for the opposing team to breathe,” Matheny said. “Either one of those guys could really hurt you at any time.”

UP NEXT

Nationals: Gio Gonzalez makes his fourth spring start, facing the Nationals.

Cardinals: Adam Wainwright will make his second spring start when St. Louis is at home against Henderson Alvarez and Miami.

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About the St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of Major League Baseball’s iconic franchises. The team with the “Birds on the Bat” have won more World Series titles than any other National League club, and are second only to the New York Yankees overall.

St. Louis has been home to a National League franchise since 1892, but the franchise wasn’t known as the Cardinals until 1900.

Behind future Hall of Fame second baseman Rogers Hornsby, the Cardinals won their first World Series in 1926 over the Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig Yankees. The ‘Gashouse Gang’ era Cardinals dominated the 1930s thanks to Dizzy Dean, Johnny Mize and Joe Medwick and won the 1934 World Series.

Did you know that Branch Rickey, who would later rise to fame for bringing Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues and breaking baseball’s color barrier, invented the minor league farm system we know today with the St. Louis Cardinals? It was Rickey who built a system of affiliate teams to grow talent that would later shine in St. Louis. In the 1930s and 1940s, that system produced the likes of future Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst and Enos Slaughter, all of whom won World Series championships for the Cardinals.

The Musial-era Cardinals would later give way to a new generation, and it was Bob Gibson and Lou Brock who helped bring the World Series back to St. Louis in the 1960s. Gibson had one of the most dominant seasons in baseball history in 1968. He was so good baseball lowered the mound the following year.

The 1970s saw the end of the Gibson and Brock years, the trade of Steve Carlton to Philadelphia and the arrival of Keith Hernandez. Hernandez would share the 1979 NL MVP award with Pittsburgh’s Willie Stargell.

For the Cardinals, the 1980s could be summed up in a single word: Whiteyball. Behind Manager Whitey Herzog, baseball in St. Louis became synonymous with speed, stolen bases and defense. Shortstop Ozzie Smith was acquired from San Diego, and with Hernandez, second baseman Tommy Herr, a rookie outfielder named Willie McGee and closer Bruce Sutter, the Cardinals won the 1982 World Series over the Milwaukee Brewers. After Hernandez would dealt to the New York Mets, that core of players, along with slugger Jack Clark, would get the Cardinals to two more World Series trips that decade.

The 1980s saw the end of the Gussie Busch ownership era for the Cardinals. When he died in 1989, the Anheuser-Busch brewery took over after nearly 40 years under his watch.

In 1996 the brewery sold the club to the ownership group still led today by Bill DeWitt, Jr. The DeWitt family brought in former Oakland A’s manager Tony LaRussa, who would go on to be the winningest manager in team history. With another former Oakland hand running the front office in Walt Jocketty, the team acquired Mark McGwire from the A’s in 1997. The slugging first baseman would break Roger Maris’ single-season record for Home Runs in 1998 in a chase with Sammy Sosa that captivated the nation, only later to be tainted by the use of performance-enhancing drugs that McGwire admitted to years later.

In 2001, a young rookie named Albert Pujols burst on the St. Louis scene. Playing all over the field, he was the runaway winner of the National League MVP, setting the stage for the most dominant decade of offensive performance ever seen in a player’s first ten years in Major League Baseball. Catcher Yadier Molina came on board in 2004 as the Cardinals made their first World Series appearance since 1987. Two years later, a rookie pitcher named Adam Wainwright would fill in as the closer on a club that won its first World Series since 1982.

The Cardinals’ third World Series appearance in eight seasons may have been the most improbable when it came in 2011. A team that was left for dead at the start of September managed to roar into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season behind the pitching heroics of Chris Carpenter down the stretch. Once in the playoffs, the legend of David Freese was born. Freese, a St. Louis County native, won the National League Championship Series MVP by slugging three home runs against Milwaukee. Then in the World Series against Texas, down to the team’s last strike in what would have been a Rangers clincher, a Freese triple tied the game. A Freese home run in extra innings forced a Game 7, which the Cardinals won, bringing an 11th World Series crown home.

Albert Pujols left via free agency in the offseason and LaRussa retired, but the Cardinals kept moving forward, reaching the 2013 World Series against the Boston Red Sox with former catcher Mike Matheny now managing the club. In some respects, the Cardinals are still recovering from what happened October 26, 2014, when outfielder Oscar Taveras, considered a potentially generational talent who could have become the face of the franchise, died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

The Matheny era would last 6.5 seasons, until he was replaced by current manager Mike Shildt in 2018.

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