Cards' Garcia strikes out nine in dominant outing

St. Louis manager Mike Matheny liked what he saw from Jaime Garcia on Thursday.

Garcia struck out nine in five innings and the Cardinals roughed up Gio Gonzalez in a 9-0 win over the Washington Nationals.

"When Jaime is on he's something to watch," Matheny said. "He's just got that stuff that's hard to square up. It's not a fun at-bat."

The Nationals only scoring opportunity against Garcia came in the second, helped by Garcia's errant pickoff attempt that allowed Roger Bernadina to go from first to third with only one out. But the 25-year-old Garcia struck out Brett Carroll and got Andres Blanco to line out to end the threat.

Garcia struck out two in each of the first four innings and didn't allow a walk.

"I didn't even know that I had that many strikeouts," Garcia said. "That's a good feeling when you go out there and you make your pitches."

Gonzalez didn't fare nearly as well, having to be lifted before the end of the fourth inning. In what was easily his worst outing of the spring, Gonzalez allowed eight runs in 3 2-3 innings.

"I felt like I was throwing pretty good pitches, they were just making contact," said Gonzalez, who had allowed only one run during his first three spring starts. "You are going to have one of those days. The best part of today was that it was spring training."

The Cardinals scored five runs in the fourth while batting around.

Tony Cruz hit an RBI double. Two batters later Tyler Greene hit his first homer of the spring — a two-run shot that put the Cardinals up 6-0. Matt Carpenter's two-run single was the final runs off Gonzalez.

St. Louis' stars scored two runs in the third. Matt Holliday followed Carlos Beltran's one-out double with a walk. They advanced on David Freese's groundout to third and scored on Yadier Molina's single to left.

NOTES: Allen Craig took fielding practice before a minor league game, his first such action since undergoing offseason surgery to repair a broken knee cap. Craig also batted during the minor league game. ... Beltran played center field for the first time this spring. With Skip Schumaker likely headed to the DL, Beltran could play center and, when healthy, Craig could play right, giving the Cardinals an extra right-handed bat against left-handed pitchers. ... Washington manager Davey Johnson doesn't expect to know a firm return date for Mike Morse or Adam LaRoche until Sunday. "It's probably still going to be a week or so — a couple weeks — on both of them," he said. Morse underwent Platelet Rich Plasma therapy to treat a "slight tear" in a back muscle, Johnson said. LaRoche has a bone bruise on his left foot. ... Chien-Ming Wang played catch today but Johnson still wasn't certain Wang's hamstring would be healed in time for the start of the season. Wang has been competing with John Lannan for the National's fifth starter job. ... Drew Storen will undergo further testing to locate the source of the "slight discomfort" Johnson said he felt during a side session.