Garcia strikes out four, Kozma gets three hits in loss

Garcia strikes out four, Kozma gets three hits in loss

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals had their Opening Day lineup on the field for the first time Sunday and defeated the Cardinals, 7-6, at Space Coast Stadium.

But it was the Nationals bench that won the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, after tying it at 6-6 in the eighth. After Wilson Ramos led off the ninth with a double in his first spring game, Zach Walters singled off Eduardo Sanchez to score pinch-runner Sandy Leon with the walk-off victory.

Left-hander Jaime Garcia started and went three innings for the Cardinals, allowing two runs on five hits, while striking out four.

"I don't really think about those things because obviously it's Spring Training and you're trying to get your body in shape," said Garcia, when asked about facing a loaded Nationals lineup. "But I think it's a good thing. You're coming to their place with the A team and you can get some good things out of it and get yourself ready for the season."

Pete Kozma, who could see increased playing time at shortstop with Rafael Furcal sidelined with an elbow injury, went 3-for-3.

The game was tied at 5-5 when the Cardinals scored the go-ahead run off left-hander Patrick McCoy in the eighth inning. With runners on first and second, C.J. McElroy singled to right field, scoring Justin Christian.

It was not a good day for Nationals left-handed relievers. They pitched three innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and walked four batters.

But Washington would tie the score in the bottom of the eighth off right-hander Maikel Cleto. Chad Tracy scored on a single by Carlos Rivero.

Before heading off to the World Baseball Classic, Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler pitched his last game for the Nationals and was solid in his second outing of the spring. He pitched two innings, allowed a run on four hits and struck out four.

The Cardinals scored a run in the top of the second inning. With runners on first and second with nobody out, Christian hit into a double play, but Tony Cruz scored on the play and tied the score at 1-1.

St. Louis then took a 2-1 lead in the third inning, when reliever Craig Stammen allowed a solo homer run to Shane Robinson.

The Nationals had a 5-2 lead by the bottom of the six inning. Chad Tracy highlighted the scoring with a two-run homer off Barret Browning in the sixth.

But St. Louis would tie the score in the seventh inning by scoring three runs off left-hander Brandon Mann. McElroy and J.R. Towles highlighted the scoring with RBI singles.

Up next for the Cardinals: Lance Lynn will make his second start of the spring on Monday, when the Cardinals host the Twins for the first and only time this spring. First pitch is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. CT. With an off-day coming on Tuesday, the Cardinals are expected to start most of their regular position players. The obvious exceptions, of course, will be Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran, both of whom have departed for the World Baseball Classic.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.