Cardinals 16, Nationals 10

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The prominent news of the day came before the Cardinals banged out 17 hits and 16 runs against the reigning NL-East champs. Rather, it was the team’s AM announcement that it had locked up Allen Craig for the next five — and, if the club wants it, six — years. The cost: $31 million (plus $13 million option for that sixth year). The contract buys out Craig’s three arbitration years and at least one free-agency year.

But why now? Well, it’s easy to see how the timing makes sense for both sides.

For Craig, he gets financial security. It could end up that he will go on to have such a productive career that he might make less than he would have had he become a free agent after the 2016 season. But he also protects himself in the case of injuries or underachievement.

For the club, it provides financial certainty. Craig’s salary was going to begin going up rapidly next offseason when he became arbitration eligible. Consider David Freese’s case, where his salary jumped from $508,000 in 2012 to $3.15 million in 2013. Arbitration makes those types of raises possible. By locking Craig into a contract now, the Cardinals don’t have the unknown of where Craig’s salary is going to shoot to in subsequent years. The team also pushes back Craig’s entrance into free agency.

You can read the full story about Craig’s five-year deal here.

***

Shelby Miller made another strong pitch for the fifth-rotation spot, which remains a competition between Miller and Joe Kelly. A day after Kelly struggled with command, Miller went aggressively after a lineup that featured most of Washington’s regulars. No batter-pitcher matchup was more intriguing, too, than the one between Miller and Bryce Harper in the first inning.

With a runner on third and one out, an 11-pitch battle ensued. Miller kept with his fastball — saying afterward that he wanted to beat Harper with his best — and eventually got Harper to swing through a high 95-mph offering.

“You see two guys who are highly-touted…it’s a great opportunity to bring the best out of somebody,” manager Mike Matheny. “Or it would be out of question to see a young pitcher not perform in a situation like that. He did a nice job.”

Said Miller, of the encounter: “I thought it was a lot of fun.”

You can read more about Miller’s day and the composition of that starter competition here in the cardinals.com notebook.

***

Some of the highlights from the offensive side on Friday:

  • Matt Carpenter, who started at second, went 4-for-4 even though he only played five innings.
  • Shane Robinson hit a grand slam in his two-hit day. He’s batting .520 this spring with three homers and 11 RBIs.
  • Rob Johnson and Ronny Cedeno both contributed multi-hit games.

***

Keith Butler inherited a 13-run lead in the ninth and couldn’t make it through the inning. He faced eight hitters and was charged with six runs. Victor Marte relieved him and served up a home run before the game finally ended.

***

The Cardinals play the Marlins at 12:05 p.m. CT on Saturday. Adam Wainwright will start. He’s scheduled to be followed by Michael Wacha, Jason Motte, Edward Mujica and Eric Fornataro. Marc Rzepczynski was also scheduled to make an appearance, but according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he is now sidelined after suffering an eye injury during a golf incident on Friday.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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