JUPITER, Fla. - A Nationals lineup composed of bench players and minor leaguers ran into a buzzsaw in Adam Wainwright today, as the Cardinals' right-hander threw eight scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and striking out seven in a 2-0 St. Louis win.
You don't typically see a starter go eight innings in spring, but you also don't typically see a starter only threw 81 pitches in eight spring innings.
Gio Gonzalez ended up throwing more pitches than Wainwright, but he lasted just 4 2/3 innings today. Gonzalez needed 82 pitches to get to that point, and while he only allowed two runs (one earned) today, the left-hander lacked the crispness that he's shown at other points this spring.
"He struggled a little bit with command, but he got his pitch count up," manager Matt Williams said. "Little bit of struggle with command today, but other than that, he was good. Fastball was good. All of his pitches were good. He was good. ...
"It's key for anybody (to keep the pitch count down), but especially him. Speaking with (pitching coach Steve McCatty) and talking with Randy (Knorr) a lot, I haven't seen him a lot, so they've been telling me that he can be (at) a high pitch count in the fourth and then all of a sudden, it's the seventh and he's still in the game. He's got the ability to lock it in, too. I thought he was good. He'll be fine."
I mentioned earlier that Gonzalez has pitched here at Roger Dean Stadium a ton over the last three springs. Today marked his fifth time here since spring of 2012, with four of those starts against the Cardinals and one against the Marlins, who also play their games here. Strangely enough, Gonzalez has never faced either of those teams at Space Coast Stadium in Viera.
Because Gonzalez has gone up against the Cardinals so much, he said he felt a need to try and give them a different look today.
"A team that's seen you so many times, your job is just to mix it up as much as possible," he said. "Work on what you can work on. And then when the season starts, try not to show them everything. Obviously there's nothing much I can hide from them anymore. They've seen plenty of me, and I've seen plenty of them. It's just who has their best stuff on that day."
By the way, Gonzalez faces the Cardinals here in Jupiter again five days from now. Figures. Reporters informed him of that after the game, when joking with the lefty about knowing every nook and cranny of Roger Dean Stadium by now.
Scott Hairston went 1-for-3 today, but the hit was a swinging bunt and he struck out twice. His average is now at .212 on the spring.
"It's been up and down," Hairston said of his spring. "There's days I've felt good, there's days I haven't felt good. But I've done a lot of work in the cage and that's definitely not in vain. I know the more and more I work, the better off I'll do. I'm not too worried. It's one of those things where I've had really good spring trainings in the past and the season doesn't dictate what your spring training was like. Sometimes, I've had really had spring trainings and had really good years.
"That said, I don't really put too much emphasis on looking too far forward. I just try to concentrate on the now. Seeing the ball good. I'm not really satisfied with my swing currently, but I think we'll get there."
Said Williams: "We're getting him as many at-bats as we can, because we certainly want to get him ready if he's going to be on our club. But we want to get him as many now, righties, lefties, it doesn't matter. It's all about at-bats right now. He'll be running out there again."