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Recap: Cardinals , Nationals
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Date: March 12, 2012 1:05 PM EDT

VIERA, Fla. (AP) - Ryan Zimmerman learned more from his strikeout than from his double and home run.

The Nationals third baseman added to his hot streak this spring with extra-base hits in his first two at_bats Monday during Washington's 8-4 victory over a St. Louis Cardinals split-squad team.


In his third at-bat, he struck out on a breaking pitch.

``Obviously, I'm happy with the first two at_bats, but the third at-bat was probably the best at-bat for me to get ready (for the season) today,' Zimmerman said. ``I got to see some stuff I hadn't seen.'

Zimmerman has been seeing a lot of fastballs so far this spring. He's 6-for-9 with three doubles, two home runs and five RBIs in his past three games.

``The goal is to try to feel good and keep it like that,' he said. ``Keep your routine, keep things the same way you've been doing them, and just hope that it lasts for seven months.'

Nationals outfielder Michael Morse returned to the lineup after getting a cortisone shot Sunday for his strained right lat muscle. Morse served as the designated hitter and doubled home Zimmerman in his first at-bat.

He also played catch from about 20 feet before the game.

``I felt good swinging,' Morse said. ``I can baby throw it, but if I don't think about it and try to throw, I feel it. It's like a little knot there. I'm not quite there yet, but it's a lot of progress from two days ago. It's just a matter of time.'

Neither starting pitcher fared well Monday. Washington's Jordan Zimmermann gave up four runs on seven hits while walking one in 3 2-3 innings. St. Louis starter Shelby Miller allowed three runs on four hits in 2 1-3 innings.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Miller left the ball up in the strike zone. He was quite impressed, however, with reliever Eduardo Sanchez, who struck out five batters in 1 2-3 innings. Reliever Adam Ottavino also had a solid performance despite three unearned runs. Ottavino left the game after only an inning when he was hit on the calf by a line drive from Washington's Corey Brown.

``(Ottavino) didn't want to come out at that point,' Matheny said. ``I haven't seen the trainer since, but (Ottavino) wasn't even flinching out there. I'm sure it's one of those things where it will be a different color tomorrow. The ball was hit pretty good.'

St. Louis got a three-run home run from David Freese in the first inning.

Notes: Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang will start Thursday's game for Washington against the New York Yankees with John Lannan throwing in relief. Wang and Lannan are competing for the Nationals' fifth starter spot. . Bryce Harper was on the training table Monday morning, with manager Davey Johnson on the table next to him. ``I might be healthier than he is right now,' said Johnson. ``His (calf) still had a little discomfort in there ... but he says he's ready.' The Nationals are still waiting for Harper to go through a full workout, and then take a day off after that, before putting him back in the lineup. Johnson said missing time right now will not affect Harper's chances of making the club . After the game, the Nationals optioned left-handed pitcher Matt Purke and infielder Anthony Rendon to Potomac of the Single-A Carolina League and optioned infielder Carlos Rivera to Syracuse of the Triple-A International League. The team also re-assigned right-handed pitchers Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Rafael Martin; catcher Sandy Leon; infielder Jarrett Hoffpauir and outfielders Corey Brown and Xavier Paul to minor league camp. The Nationals now have 45 players in big league camp . Lance Lynn will start for St. Louis on Wednesday against Houston.

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