JUPITER, Fla. _ The Cardinals' fifth straight exhibition victory today probably was their best win of the season.
Starter Jaime Garcia fanned nine in five innings, giving up just three singles, walking no one and fanning nine.
Second baseman Tyler Greene hit a two-run homer while reserves Tony Cruz (three), Matt Carpenter (three) and Shane Robinson (two) combined for eight hits as the Cardinals pounded Washington, 9-0.
Over the last five games, or once through the rotation, Cardinals starting pitchers have permitted just two earned runs and 14 hits, 13 of them singles, in 25 innings.
Garcia fans nine
JUPITER, Fla. • Jaime Garcia, who carried a 5.40 earned run average for his first four spring starts, was camera ready today against the Washington Nationals.
The Cardinals' lefthander fanned nine and allowed no walks and just three hits over his five-inning stint, his longest of the spring. Throwing 54 strikes out of 74 pitches, Garcia left with an 8-0 lead as the Cardinals amassed 11 hits through five innings. Three of the hits by Tony Cruz, who is angling for a backup catcher's job with the club.
Garcia, who will have two more spring outings, figures to start the second game of the regular season at Milwaukee on April 6.
Greene's HR keys five-run fourth
JUPITER, Fla. • Second baseman Tyler Greene's two-run homer highlighted a five-run fourth inning as the Cardinals rolled to an 8-0 lead over the Washington Nationals today.
Greene hit his first homer of the spring off lefthander Gio Gonzalez. Earlier in the inning, Tony Cruz and Shane Robinson, both battling to make the club, had combined for a run.
First baseman Cruz, getting his second hit, doubled home right fielder Robinson, who had singled for the second time.
Matt Carpenter, filling in for David Freese at third bse, singled home two more runs after Carlos Beltran had walked and Adron Chambers had doubled.
Gonzalez, a 16-game winner for Oakland last year, had been peppered for a two-run single by Yadier Molina in the third inning. Molina entered the game hitting .431.
Jaime Garcia held the Nationals to three hits over the first four innings.
Beltran, starting for the first time ini center field after spending his previous time in right field, singled, doubled and walked in his three plate appearances but had no chances in the field.
Cardinals run into 1-0 lead
The Cardinals, who have been aggressive on the bases much of the spring, ran themselves into the lead in the second inning today against the Washington Nationals.
After Shame Robinson singled with one out and went to third on Tony Cruz's hit, pitcher Jaime Garcia came to bat for the first time this spring. Garcia struck out as Cruz headed for second.
Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos fired through to second but the throw was not particularly good as Cruz alertly stopped and Robinson broke quickly to the plate, scoring without a return throw.
Cruz finally was run down on the play but Robinson's run counted as the Cardinals went ahead, 1-0.
Carpenter gets more tests
JUPITER, Fla. • Injured Cardinals righthander Chris Carpenter still is in St. Louis today, undergoing a third day of tests to try to determine what is causing the weakness in his right shoulder and right arm.
"We really don't know anything," said manager Mike Matheny. "He has more tests today. The things he's been tested on already, there haven't been any open flags."
Carpenter, who won four postseason games to help lead the Cardinals to the World Series championship last year, has been bothered much of the spring by a bulging disc which had affected a nerve in his neck.
He threw a batting practice session against Cardinals hitters on Sunday and looked good but felt weakness and discomfort the next day and then returned to St. Louis.
Beltran starts in CF
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, continuing his experiment with different lineup combinations, is giving Carlos Beltran his first start in center field today against the Washington Nationals.
Beltran, normally the Cardinals' right fielder, hasn't played center field in the regular season since 2010 because of knee problems.
Matheny said, "His natural instincts are fine. But we've seen how he's kind of tempered himnself, how he's paced himself here. He's gone harder each time he goes out there.
"He's a guy who understands the outfield and the intricacies of it. You can see he really thrives on doing things right. A lot of what center field is is conscientiousness."
Meantime, Matheny said incumbent center fielder Jon Jay had improved his quarterbacking skills this spring.
"He's not afraid to say something to (left fielder) Matt Holliday. He's not afraid to say something to Carlos," said Matheny.
With the steady improvement of Allen Craig from right knee surgery, Beltran's ability to play center field gives Matheny another option against lefthanded pitching.
The righthanded-hitting Craig could play right field, or even first base, said Matheny, to give Lance Berkman a day off.
Shane Robinson will get the start in right field and Tony Cruz at first against Nationals lefthander Gio Gonzalez today. Second baseman Tyler Greene will hit first and shortstop Rafael Furcal sixth. Lefthander Jaime Garcia, slated to pitch the second game of the season in Milwaukee, will be the Cardinals' starter.