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Twins Cardinals Spring Baseball

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright lowered his Grapefruit League ERA to 0.84 with five strong innings Wednesday. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

JUPITER, Fla. • Backup catcher Francisco Pena, son of former Cardinals catcher Tony Pena, saved the potential go-ahead run in the top of the eighth when he scrambled to recover Matt Bowman’s pitch in the dirt with the bases loaded and threw to Bowman covering the plate for the final out. Then, Pena, who had been just one for seven this spring, singled in the winning run in the home eighth as the Cardinals nipped the Washington Nationals 4-3, Wednesday in exhibition baseball.

Luke Voit singled with one out and pinch runner Randy Arozarena went to second on a wild pitch in the Cardinals’ eighth. With Arozarena trying to steal third with two out, Pena singled to left for the decisive run.

Breyvic Valera’s bases-loaded, two-run single in the seventh inning off Washington reliever Brandon Kintzler had been the Cardinals’ first go-ahead hit of the day.

But the highlight of the game might have been veteran righthander Adam Wainwright’s solid effort for 3 2/3 innings in his second start of the spring. The 36-year-old Wainwright, who had off-season elbow surgery, didn’t reel off as many 90 mph pitches as he had in his first start last week but his slow curve did particular damage.

Wainwright, who gave up one run, struck out three, with one of them Washington star Bryce Harper on a 72 mph curveball to end a nine-pitch at-bat. The at-bat actually extended to 10 pitches as home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez granted time to Harper when he would have been struck out the first time.

Wainwright allowed three hits and walked two while throwing 63 pitches, 39 of them strikes. He had walked three in three innings in his first spring start after having off-season elbow surgery.

“Pretty thrifty,” said pitching coach Mike Maddux. “He commanded the strike zone pretty well _ out of the stretch. The curveball was there. The command of the fastball was there. I thought he looked really good.”

Greg Garcia’s second-inning homer, completing a seven-pitch at-bat, was the only hit off Washington starter Max Scherzer in four innings.

The Nationals pushed across a run against John Gant in the sixth although the righthanded reliever actually had 3 1/3 good innings.

In the seventh, Patrick Wisdom, who had been four for 23, doubled and was safe at third on a fielder’s choice grounder hit by Garcia. After Kintzler struck out two hitters, Oscar Mercado walked to fill the bases for the switch-hitting Valera, who had been two for 16. .

Conner Greene walked home the tying run in the eighth as the Nationals tied the score at 3-3 before Pena made his quick recovery at the screen of the ball that got away from him.

“It was a pretty bad pitch,” said Bowman.

First baseman Wisdom made a nifty grab to his right on a grounder in the ninth and started a double play, with Bowman again covering for the out.

CECIL MAKES DEBUT IN 'B' GAME 

In a “B” game Wednesday morning, Cardinals lefthander Brett Cecil made his first appearance of the season, allowing two hits and one run in one inning against the Miami Marlins.

“It was good to see him out there,” said Maddux. “He threw a big bullpen two days ago and what we worked on, he carried out there.”

'WAINO' HAS STRONG OUTING 

Adam Wainwright turned in a solid performance in his second start of the spring Wednesday when he allowed a run and three hits over 3 2/3 innings against the Washington Nationals.

Wainwright, particularly effective with a 72 mile an hour slow curveball, struck out three and walked two while throwing 63 pitches, 39 of them strikes. He had walked three in three innings in his first spring start after having off-season elbow surgery.

One of Wainwright's strikeouts was a full-count whiff (at 72 mph) of Washington slugger Bryce Harper after a nine-pitch at-bat, which actually might have been 10 but home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez had called time when Harper appeared to have been struck out.

The score was 1-1 in the fourth, the Cardinals’ run courtesy of a Greg Garcia homer off Nationals ace Max Scherzer in the second inning.

CECIL WORKS ONE INNING IN 'B' GAME

 Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals, Parkway Central High and the University of Missouri will oppose longtime Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright Wednesday in exhibition baseball here. Each is expected to pitch four innings. 

The Cardinals will have regulars Kolten Wong, Tommy Pham and Paul DeJong in the lineup

In a “B” game Wednesday morning, Cardinals lefthander Brett Cecil made his first appearance of the season, allowing two hits and one run in one inning against the Miami Marlins.

“It was good to see him out there,” said Maddux. “He threw a big bullpen two days ago and what we worked on, he carried out there.”

Righthanders Jason Motte and Josh Lucas had scoreless innings and lefthander Sean Gilmartin allowed a run in two innings.

Shortstop Delvin Perez, the 2016 top draft pick who is in the minor league camp, singled and scored the Cardinals’ lone run.

CARDINALS LINEUP

1. Kolten Wong 2b

2. Tommy Pham cf

3. Paul DeJong ss

4. Carson Kelly c

5. Patrick Wisdom 1b

6. Greg Garcia 3b

7. Harrison Bader rf

8. Andrew Kzizner dh

9. Oscar Mercado lf

RH Adam Wainwright p

WASHINGTON LINEUP

1. Trea Turner ss

2. Matt Wieters c

3. Bryce Harper rf

4. Victor Robles cf

5. Matt Adams 1b

6. Ryan Raburn lf

7. Moises Sierra rf

8. Kelvin Gutierrez 3b

9. Matt Reynolds 2b

RH Max Scherzer p

Rick Hummel

@cmshhummel on Twitter

rhummel@post-dispatch.com

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