ST. LOUIS -- The Nationals scored six runs in the third inning by doing all the little things, like Rick Ankiel going from first to third -- minus a shoe -- and Ian Desmond swiping home on a double steal. They scored the game's first run after Jayson Werth's aggressive slide at second prevented a double play.
Exactly what manager Jim Riggleman likes to see.
"We've got to do that. We're not going to be a slugging team," Riggleman said after an 8-6 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of a doubleheader on Wednesday. "We had a little margin because of good baserunning."
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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.
"They hit one ball hard and everything else I made pitches," Franklin said. "You can't keep being negative on yourself, you've got to try to take something positive out of it."
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 including a pair of infield singles 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.
"It just wasn't a good day to get behind the hitters, or anytime for that matter, but today was especially bad," Westbrook said. "It just kind of snowballed in that one inning."
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.
"I just felt a little off," Lannan said. "Against this kind of lineup, you're kind of lucky going out there and getting through five with the stuff that I had."
Tyler Clippard got Pujols to fly out with two men on to end the sixth, then struck out pinch hitters Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso to end the seventh with two on base. 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.
Lannan started and ended the third with groundouts, but in between seven straight batters reached safely, highlighted by Desmond's two-run single, an RBI double by Ivan Rodriguez and the double steal.
Trailing 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.
- 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.
- Ankiel made his first appearance in St. Louis as an opposing player and got a nice ovation before his first at-bat.