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Pudge's homer helps Nationals beat Cardinals 7-4

VIERA, Fla. (AP) — Ivan Rodriguez hit a two-run shot off Adam Wainwright for his first homer of the spring, Willie Harris had three hits, and the Washington Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-4 on Friday.

After Washington scored three in the first two innings, Wainwright retired 11 of 12 batters. But in the sixth, Josh Willingham singled, and Rodriguez followed with a drive to straightaway center to make it 5-4.

Wainwright went six innings, giving up five runs — four earned — and eight hits. He threw 84 pitches, with eight strikeouts and no walks.

Washington's John Lannan gave up three runs, three hits and two walks in the first inning, including Matt Holliday's RBI ground-rule double. But he quickly settled down, going 5 2-3 innings, with eight hits and four runs.

The Nationals scored two in the first, thanks to consecutive singles by Harris and Cristian Guzman, followed by consecutive RBI groundouts — with a throwing error mixed in by Allen Craig, filling in at first base for Albert Pujols, who didn't make the trip to Viera.

Lannan hit an RBI single in the second, and Wainwright repaid the favor with a ground-rule double in the fourth that helped set up a run that put St. Louis ahead 4-3.

Then came Rodriguez's homer, in his last at-bat of the day. He went 1 for 3, leaving his spring average at .333 with nine RBIs.

The 38-year-old known as "Pudge" is set to begin the season as Washington's starting catcher, because Jesus Flores still is rehabilitating from shoulder surgery. Rodriguez signed a two-year, $6 million free-agent deal with the Nationals in December, and while there have been questions about his hitting of late, Washington is thrilled to have a 14-time All-Star and 13-time Gold Glove winner behind the plate to help its pitchers.

NOTES: Pujols originally was slated to make the bus trip for Friday's game, but manager Tony La Russa decided not to bring the three-time NL MVP because he'll play in each of the next three games. La Russa said Pujols' back is fine; the slugger was scratched from last Monday's game with a sore back, then played Wednesday and Thursday. ... La Russa said C Yadier Molina "feels improved," 48 hours after hurting a side muscle. La Russa doubts Molina will play in any more exhibition games and isn't sure whether the All-Star will be ready for opening day. ... Cardinals OF Colby Rasmus sat out again after getting spiked in the knee while attempting to break up a double play on Wednesday. "It's a little bit sore," La Russa said. "It's playable, but why push it?" ... Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said RHP Miguel Batista is the front-runner to get the long-relief role in the bullpen. Other bullpen spots that appear set: RHP Matt Capps, RHP Brian Bruney, LHP Sean Burnett, RHP Tyler Clippard, RHP Jason Bergmann. ... Nationals RHPs Jordan Zimmermann and Chien-Ming Wang threw bullpen sessions Friday morning, and pitching coach Steve McCatty said both looked good. ... Apparently, the players aren't the only ones still working out the kinks before the regular season: After the fourth inning ended with the Cardinals ahead 4-3, the public address announcer told the crowd, "We're tied at 3 apiece after four innings played." The score was the same after the fifth — and the guy made the same mistake.