Cards rout Nationals 12-3 with fast start

Saturday, March 12, 2005

VIERA, Fla. -- Zach Day won't earn the fifth spot in Washington's rotation if he keeps pitching like this.

Day allowed six runs during an erratic two-inning outing Friday as the Nationals lost 12-3 to the St. Louis Cardinals, who batted around in the first.

Day gave up six runs -- three earned -- on four hits with two walks. In his spring training opener last Sunday, the right-hander hit the game's first batter and allowed two solo homers.

"It wasn't as bad as it looked, it was just getting behind, and that's what I'm a little frustrated about," said Day, who broke the middle finger on his pitching hand while trying to bunt against Carl Pavano on Aug. 1 and missed the rest of last season. "I want to be out there putting up zeros. I don't want to be out there giving up runs."

He's vying with Jon Rauch and John Patterson for the final spot in Washington's rotation.

Day struggled in the first inning Friday, and two errors that led to three unearned runs didn't help. Then David Eckstein and So Taguchi led off the second with consecutive home runs. Day finished the inning, and his day was done after 48 pitches.

"He's a victim of circumstances, but he's also a victim of creating some of it himself," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said. "He got himself in trouble initially. I'll expect better next time.

"Am I taking him out of the (fifth) spot? No. But, still, he's not a lock."

Cardinals starter Jason Marquis wasn't particularly sharp, either.

Marquis (2-0) lasted just 2 2-3 innings, allowing three runs -- two earned -- on four hits, while walking four. He threw 64 pitches.

"You never want to come out of a game, but it's spring training and you just have to fill your pitch count," Marquis said. "I felt good physically, but I have to go back to the drawing board and make sure that when I'm out there in a game situation, I'm not thinking too much, it just comes naturally."

Julian Tavarez pitched well in relief of Marquis, striking out the side in the fourth.

Cardinals reserve outfielder Brandon Berger hit a three-run homer in the fifth, and backup catcher Mike Mahoney added a two-run shot in the ninth.

Notes: Albert Pujols went 2-for-4 with an RBI single. ... Brendan Harris was the only Washington player with two hits.

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