Nationals' Zimmerman stays hot with homer, double

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VIERA, Fla. (AP) -- Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman got more out of a strikeout than his home run and double.

Zimmerman has been on a tear this spring, and that continued Monday in the Nationals' 8-4 victory over a St. Louis Cardinals split squad. He homered and doubled in his first two at-bats before striking 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," Zimmerman said. "I got to see some stuff I hadn't seen."

Zimmerman, who said he has been seeing a lot of fastballs this spring, is 6-for-9 with three doubles, two home runs and five RBIs in his past three games. For the spring, he is hitting .583 (7-for-12).

"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."

It was also a big day for Nationals outfielder Michael Morse, who returned to the lineup after getting a cortisone shot Sunday to help treat his strained right lat muscle. Morse, the designated hitter, 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."

World Series MVP David Freese hit a three-run homer in the first inning for St. Louis.

Neither starting pitcher fared well. Washington's Jordan Zimmermann gave up four runs, seven hits, and one walk in 3 2-3 innings. St. Louis' Shelby Miller allowed three runs and four hits in 2 1-3 innings. It was Miller's second spring start, both against the Nationals.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Miller left the ball up in the strike zone, and it proved to be costly on a windy day.

Matheny was quite impressed, however, with reliever Eduardo Sanchez, who struck out five in just 1 2-3 innings. Adam Ottavino also had a solid performance, despite giving up three unearned runs. Ottavino left the game after only an inning because he was hit on the calf by Corey Brown's line drive.

He was replaced by Sanchez.

"(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 (Tuesday). The ball was hit pretty good." NOTES: Nationals right-hander Chien-Ming Wang will start Thursday against the New York Yankees, and John Lannan will come on in relief. Manager Davey Johnson said he is starting Wang because he wants him to go through the full pregame preparation and face his former team. Wang and Lannan are competing for the Nationals' fifth starter spot. Johnson said nothing should be read into the order in which they will pitch. ... Bryce Harper was on the training table Monday morning, with Johnson on the table next to him. "I might be healthier than he is right now," Johnson said. "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, before he rejoins the lineup. ... The Nationals optioned left-hander Matt Purke and infielder Anthony Rendon to Potomac of the Single-A Carolina League, and optioned infielder Carlos Rivera to Triple-A Syracuse. Right-handers Austin Bibens-Dirkx and Rafael Martin, catcher Sandy Leon, infielder Jarrett Hoffpauir, and outfielders Corey Brown and Xavier Paul were assigned to minor league camp. ... Matt Holliday had three at-bats at DH for St. Louis. ... Lance Lynn will start for St. Louis on Wednesday against Houston. The Cardinals are trying to stretch out Lynn's arm in case he is needed to join the rotation if Chris Carpenter (neck) isn't ready for the start of the season.