JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Marlins got another strong start from ace Josh Johnson but a bad ending from their closer Thursday.
Johnson struck out four in three scoreless innings before the St. Louis Cardinals beat up on closer Leo Nunez during a five-run ninth for a 5-3 win.
Nunez, who saved 26 games last season, allowed four hits before leaving with two outs and runners at second and third. He was charged three earned runs.
"It was his third time out," manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Nunez, who blew seven save chances last year. "Those things are going to happen."
It was the first true closing situation this spring for Nunez, who pitched two scoreless innings in non-closer situations before Thursday. He will open the season for the first time as a closer.
Johnson, the Marlins' opening-day starter, struck out the side in the first inning, mixing in a changeup with a fastball that hit 94 mph.
"Coming out, you're usually pumped up and changeups are a little tough to find, but it was good today," he said. "Whenever I fell behind I just threw fastballs that were down."
Johnson has allowed two runs with six strikeouts over five innings in two spring starts.
The Marlins took a 1-0 lead in the seventh when Jorge Jiminez drove in Donnie Murphy with a single. Scott Cousins hit a home run in the eighth inning.
But the Cardinals rallied with one out in the ninth inning. Joe Mather tied the game with a double that scored David Freese. Tyler Greene singled to score Mather. Shane Robinson doubled to score two more runs.
Kyle Lohse looked good for the Cardinals. He struck out two and allowed two hits over four scoreless innings, throwing 33 of his 44 pitches for strikes.
Clay Hensley also pitched well for the Marlins, allowing one hit over three scoreless innings. He gave up a one-out triple to Felipe Lopez in the fourth then got Ryan Ludwick to fly out to shallow right and struck out Allen Craig.
NOTES: Albert Pujols (back stiffness) hopes to play some time this weekend. Matt Holliday (sore right rib cage) is out at least until Monday. "My hope is that we use ultimate care and concern and err on the side of waiting (with Pujols)," manager Tony LaRussa said. ... Marlins manager Gonzalez said there's a chance outfield prospect Mike Stanton will open the season with the Marlins. Stanton, 20, is batting .333 in 15 at-bats with two home runs, one off the Mets' Bobby Parnell and one off Houston's Wandy Rodriguez.