Nats pound Cards to win season-best fifth straight game

Hero: Ryan Zimmerman ended a 16-game homerless drought by going deep twice.

Big day: Joel Hanrahan earned his first MLB win, giving up six hits and one run while striking out three and walking three in a five-inning stint. Hanrahan also added a two-run double.

Pullin' out all the stops: Attempting to jump-start an anemic offense, Cards manager Tony La Russa batted his pitcher eighth for the first time since 1998.

Injury note: St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols missed the game with a sore right elbow.

-- ESPN.com news services

Nationals 12, Cardinals 1

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The pitcher batted eighth and an infielder pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals. Both moves worked out OK for manager Tony La Russa.

Everything else, however, went Washington's way Saturday night.

Ryan Zimmerman hit two home runs, and Joel Hanrahan added a two-run double in his first major league win as Washington scored its most lopsided victory of the season, pounding the St. Louis Cardinals 12-1.

The Nationals winning streak reached a season-best five games, while the Cardinals tried to spark a slumping offense by batting their pitcher eighth and ended the game with an infielder pitching.

"I finally had a day off from managing," Nationals manager Manny Acta said. "It was the first time I could just lay back and wait for 27 outs. It was nice for my brain cells."

While the first-year manager had a relaxing evening, his counterpart had to get creative before and during the game.

La Russa batted second baseman Adam Kennedy ninth and his pitcher eighth. It was the first time La Russa batted his pitcher eighth since 1998.

For a while, the move looked brilliant. Kennedy hit a home run with one out in the third, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.

But Washington scored 12 runs, and the only pitcher who could stop the Nationals' suddenly potent offense was a 5-foot-8 utility infielder, Aaron Miles who hadn't pitched since he was 14.

La Russa, whose team gave up 12 or more runs twice in the last four games, asked pitching coach Dave Duncan to suggest another reliever.

"I didn't know who to pitch, and Duncan said: 'Who's our shortest reliever?' That's pretty obvious, it's Miles," La Russa said. "I applaud him for his sense of humor when we're getting our butt beat like that."

Hanrahan (1-0), a 25-year-old rookie making his second major league start, didn't allow another run pitching into the fifth inning. He gave up six hits, struck out three and walked three in sending the Cardinals to their fourth straight defeat.

He also came up with a big hit during a five-run fourth that gave Washington a 5-1 lead.

Zimmerman led off the inning with his 16th home run off Joel Pineiro (0-1), a shot that landed several rows into the upper deck in left field. Dmitri Young singled, and after a pair of outs, Brian Schneider and Nook Logan singled to make it 2-1.

Hanrahan then hit a two-run double to left, and Felipe Lopez followed with a base hit. When Pineiro tried to pick Lopez off first, his throw was high and sailed into short right field, allowing Hanrahan to scamper home.

Hanrahan made his debut a week before against New York.

"It's been a long week," Hanrahan said. "I've been waiting for this day to come. It didn't feel like it would ever get here. I've been in the minors for so long, you wonder if you have the stuff to be here."

Pineiro, obtained from Boston on Monday, was making his first major league start in 11 months. He gave up five runs -- four earned -- on seven hits in five innings.

The Nationals added five more runs in the sixth. Logan hit a run-scoring double, Tony Batista had a pinch-hit single and Ronnie Belliard hit a sacrifice fly, before Zimmerman connected on a two-run homer -- the first multihomer game of his career.

"I'm just being a little more patient," Zimmerman said. "I'm getting pitches that I can handle and not trying to do too much. I'm laying off pitches early in the count. When you're in command, you can look for the pitches you want."

With a chance to hit his third home run, he faced Miles, who retired the side in the eighth on just seven pitches.

"It's amazing that I got out of the inning without anybody getting on, but I've got to give it up to the bullpen," Miles said. "They told me the slower you throw, the better, and they were right."

Schneider's two-run home run in the seventh gave Washington a 12-1 lead.

Game notes
The Cardinals' Albert Pujols missed the game with a sore right elbow. It was the first game he missed this season. ... Washington tied a season-high with five hits in both the fourth and sixth innings. They have four five-hit innings. ... The Nationals turned four double plays for the third time this season. ... The 12 runs Washington scored were the second most this season.