The Washington Nationals split a day-night doubleheader with the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, winning the early game 8-6 and dropping the nightcap 5-3. The Nats are now 9-8 after their first 17 games, good for third place in the N. L. East, two games behind division-leading Philadelphia.
In the early game, the Nationals used a six-run third inning to chase Cards started Jake Westbrook (L, 1-2, 9.82). Six straight hitters reached base in the frame and the Nats pulled a double-steal, with Ian Desmond recording the first steal of home for the franchise since the relocation.
Laynce Nix homered off deposed Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin in the eighth for insurance.
John Lannan did not pitch particularly well, but he did get through five innings, allowing just two earned runs on seven hits and two walks, striking out two. Both runs came on solo home runs, one each to Albert Pujols and Colby Rasmus. But it was enough to get Lannan the win (2-1, 3.43).
Though the bullpen didn't do him any favors. Chad Gaudin gave up three runs in his two-thirds of an inning, and the normally reliable Sean Burnett gave up a run late on three hits. But Drew Storen recorded a six out save to finish things off.
In the second game, Jordan Zimmermann (L, 1-3, 3.70) struggled through six innings, surrendering eight hits and two walks, resulting in five runs, all earned, in six innings. He struck out three in the process.
The righty, still recovering from Tommy John surgery, did not have his good stuff last night and it showed. But after manager Jim Riggleman used most of his bullpen in the first game, the youngster had to take one for the team and gut it out in the late game.
Cards starter Jaime Garcia limited the Nats to four hits and two walks in five innings, running his record to 3-0. he gave up three runs, just one earned, and struck out four.
Collin Balester made his 2011 debut in relief, pitching the final two scoreless innings. He gave up one hit, one walk and struck out one.