WEST PALM BEACH, Florida — Washington Nationals fans have reason to doubt 2022 will be their year. On Wednesday they got 29 more.
Pitchers Anibal Sanchez and Cade Cavalli conceded 10 runs each, while the Nationals were defeated 29-8 by the St. Louis Cardinals in a spring training game — a laughing stock even by practice standards.
“It just got a little out of hand,” said Washington manager Dave Martinez. “They had some hits where they had the wand today.”
The Cardinals scored 15 runs in the eighth inning, a jump-off that started against Cavalli.
St. Louis has never scored more than 12 runs in an inning during a regular-season game. The outburst was so brain-bending that when Gilbert Lara of Washington hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth, the scoreboard operator awarded the points briefly to the Cardinals — perhaps out of muscle memory.
Home runs from Paul DeJong, Paul Goldschmidt and Yadier Molina were among St. Louis’s 26 hits.
Over 131 years in the National League, the Cardinals’ regular season record is 28 runs in a game, against Philadelphia in 1929. Records from 1996 show their spring training high at 18 runs.
Expectations aren’t particularly high in Washington, a year after the franchise traded Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber ahead of the trade deadline. However, no one sees this kind of loss coming.
Sanchez gave up 10 runs on 12 hits and one walk over four innings. In the second inning, the 38-year old threw so many pitches that Martinez removed him, only to get him back into the game the next inning.
“I’ve thrown about 90 pitches and I’m still healthy,” Sánchez said. “So that’s a good thing right now. I’m just working on being ahead of the tally. I don’t want to be afraid of everything that happened today and try to be close to the attack zone.”
Washington’s top contender Cavalli managed to remain optimistic after conceding 11 runs, 10 of them earned, in 2 1/3 innings.
“I went to battle and I lost today,” said Cavalli. “I’m going to keep my head up. I’m going to learn from it, work and everything will be fine.”
Sanchez and Cavalli are under consideration for last spot in Washington’s rotation.
In Sanchez’s only other Grapefruit League-out, he threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings, walking two batters and striking out three without giving up a basehit.
Cavalli, who also could make the team as a reliever, gave up three earned runs in six innings in two spring appearances and struckout nine.
“Once you see where the game is going, it’s more about getting their up-downs, getting their pitch count there, and building for their next start,” Martinez said.
Both pitchers are expected to make another start before Washington breaks camp.
Off the playing field, there was good news from Washington’s standpoint. Stephen Strasburg threw his first bullpen session in what Martinez called “a while” ahead of Wednesday’s game.
Strasburg returns from surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome.
“We went back a bit because he felt like his mechanics weren’t working,” said Martinez. “We wanted to pull him back a little bit so he felt good. But he was good today.”
Strasburg’s next outing will also be in the bullpen. There is no time frame for the right hander to appear in a game.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.