Nix leads Nationals over Cardinals
Laynce Nix homered and drove in two runs and the Washington Nationals chased Jake Westbrook with a six-run third inning, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 8-6 in the first game of a doubleheader on Wednesday.
Albert Pujols hit his fifth homer and Colby Rasmus homered with three RBIs, but he also grounded into two of the Cardinals' four double plays as St. Louis fell to 2-5 at home.
Demoted closer Ryan Franklin retired four straight batters before Nix homered with one out in the eighth on a pitch that caused Franklin to recoil in disgust.
A sparse crowd of 8,686 showed up at general admission prices and a sit-anywhere policy to watch the makeup game of a rainout Tuesday night. The Cardinals announced 32,340 tickets sold, but the Busch Stadium upper deck was closed aside for the press box until the scheduled second game set for 7:15 p.m. CDT.
It was the franchise's worst crowd since Sept. 14, 1989, when only 1,519 watched a makeup of a tie game called by rain against the Pirates, a game memorable for fans making mad dashes for every foul ball down the lines.
Drew Storen allowed a walk while getting the last four outs for his second save in two chances. Danny Espinosa had three hits for the Nationals, who have won four in a row.
Westbrook (1-2) has a 9.82 ERA after four starts, allowing 30 hits in only 18 1-3 innings, and is 7-18 for his career in the first month. He gave up seven runs on seven hits and a pair of walks in three innings, his shortest outing since May 2, 2007, when he left a start with Cleveland after 1 1-3 innings with an abdominal injury that landed him on the 15-day DL.
John Lannan (2-1) was in and out of trouble in five innings, inducing two double-play balls and holding the Cardinals hitless in seven at-bats with men on base. The only damage came on solo homers by Pujols and Rasmus, the first homers by the current Cardinals roster against the left-hander.
Tyler Clippard struck out pinch hitters Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso to end the seventh after the first two men reached. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa emptied his bench by the eighth, including a rare decision to pinch hit for his catcher, which backfired when Jay struck out for Gerald Laird.
Westbrook has allowed eight runs in the fifth, his worst inning. He didn't make it that far against the Nationals.
Lannan started and ended the third with groundouts, but in between seven straight batters reached safely highlighted by Desmond's two-run single and an RBI double by Ivan Rodriguez.
Down 7-0 in the third, the Cardinals scored three in the sixth to cut the gap to 7-5 with Theriot getting an RBI infield hit and Rasmus following with a two-run bloop single off Doug Slaten that fell just in front of Nix's diving attempt in left.
Notes: Ryan Theriot had four hits and an RBI. ... Nationals starters have worked at least five innings in every game. ... Lannan is 5-0 in his last six road starts. ... Franklin has allowed four homers in 6 2-3 innings after giving up seven all last year in 65 innings. ... The Cardinals entered with an NL-high 20 double play balls. ... Rick Ankiel made his first appearance in St. Louis as an opposing player and got a nice ovation before his first at-bat.