JUPITER, Fla. – A year ago Nolan Gorman was playing high school baseball in Arizona. On Saturday, he was facing three-time Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer.
While Gorman no doubt will remember striking out twice against Scherzer, it was what he did in his third at-bat against the Nationals that has Cardinals fans excited about the 18-year-old’s future.
Facing former Cardinals minor leaguer Kyle Barraclough in the seventh inning, Gorman blasted a home run over the right field wall in the game in West Palm Beach.
Gorman was the Cardinals’ top pick in the draft last year and spent the season at rookie-level Johnson City and Class A Peoria, where the third baseman is expected to begin this season.
He was making his first start in a major-league spring training game, called over from the minor-league camp, as a late addition to the lineup. Evan Mendoza was scheduled to start at third base but he was moved to first base when Rangel Ravelo had to be scratched because of soreness. Gorman’s first at-bat in a spring game came as a pinch-hitter on March 9 when he flew out to center field.
Gorman, who won’t turn 19 until May, hit a foul ball off Scherzer in each of his two at-bats against the St. Louis native. He was called out on a checked swing in his first at-bat, then swung and missed strike three in his second at-bat.
He got another at-bat in the eighth against former Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal and struck out on a 102 miles per hour fastball.
On defense, Gorman started a 5-4-3 double play to end the fifth inning but also was charged with two fielding errors in the eighth.
Here is how the game broke down:
High: The Cardinals rallied to win the game with a five-run ninth inning off Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, capped by a three-run homer from Andrew Knizner.
Low: Austin Gomber struggled again. He gave up all five of the Nationals’ runs on eight hits over four innings, including another home run. Gomber has served up six homers in 11 innings this spring and has a 10.64 ERA.
At the plate: The Cardinals trailed 5-1 when Scherzer came out of the game as he recorded nine strikeouts over six innings … Jose Martinez had two of the Cardinals four hits off Scherzer, including an RBI single in the first inning … Tommy Edman had a big day, leading off the game with a triple off Scherzer, then adding an RBI double in the ninth inning rally … Randy Arozarena followed Gorman’s homer with a home run in the seventh that cut the lead to 5-3 … Edman’s double made it 5-4, and Max Schrock tied the game with a two-out, two-strike RBI single before Knizner hit a bomb over the left field wall … Francisco Pena was 0-of-3 as he caught and played for the first time since suffering an oblique injury on March 5.
On the mound: Six relievers combined to shut out the Nationals over the final five innings, allowing just three hits and one walk … Dominic Leone has not allowed a run in six innings of work this spring … John Brebbia was able to pitch around two hits while striking out two in his inning of relief.
Off the field: Carlos Martinez was not at the Cardinals’ complex on Saturday because his wife went into labor … Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas are scheduled to pitch against each other in a squad game on a back field on Monday … Manager Mike Shildt said Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha’s next starts next week also will come on a back field.
Up next: The Cardinals are expected to use their projected regular lineup for each of the next two days as they play Miami on Sunday and the Phillies on Monday in Jupiter. John Gant will get the start against the Marlins.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains