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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. • The Cardinals’ first spring training night game this year began with four double plays induced by starter Mike Leake in four innings but it also began with Houston taking a 4-0 lead.

Then longtime minor leaguer Jose Martinez, who surely will be making an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career, cracked a two-run homer. The Cardinals subsequently took advantage of five Astros walks, two errors and a wild pitch to score a total of four runs in the sixth and seventh innings. 

The night got better for the Cardinals with Greg Garcia’s two-run, inside-the-park homer in the eighth and three dominant innings by reliever Trevor Rosenthal, who struck out five.

Then there was the first spring hit by recently signed Cuban Jose Adolis Garcia, who electrified what was left of the crowd with a ninth-inning triple.  He scored on the second hit by Martinez, who also had two walks, and is hitting precisely .400 for the spring, best in the majors. 

Tommy Pham’s two-run pinch triple and Greg Garcia’s single closed out a 12-run rally and ultimate 12-6 victory at the new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, running the Cardinals’ exhibition record to 14-7-3. The game ran long enough that, in the ninth inning, the sprinkler system came on, drenching the area in short right field, and causing a delay of several minutes. 

Three sent to minors

After the game, the Cardinals trimmed three players. Non-roster outfielder Todd Cunningham and catcher Gabriel Lino were reassigned to the minor-league complex and second baseman Breyvic Valera was optioned to Class AAA Memphis.

Valera hit .304 in 23 at-bats but Cunningham rarely was a factor, batting only .182. Lino was two for seven.

G. Garcia homers inside the park

Greg Garcia hit his first spring homer — inside the park — Monday night when Houston left fielder Jon Kemmer missed on a diving catch of Garcia’s liner to left with one out in the eighth inning and both Jose Martinez, running from first, and Garcia circled the bases.

The two-run home run extended the Cardinals’ exhibition lead to 8-4 over the Astros. It was the first inside-the-parker for the Cardinals this season and first in the new Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Rosenthal fans five in three innings

Trevor Rosenthal, hitting 100 miles an hour on occasion, fanned five hitters and walked just one in three sparkling innings. He concluded his duties by fielding a comebacker and starting an eighth-inning double play, with the help of shortstop Wilfredo Tover, who latched onto a slightly wide throw.

It was the second time Rosenthal had worked two or more scoreless innings in his last two Grapefruit League outings although in his first one last week, he had to strand four runners.

Houston walks mean Cardinals runs

Ever the gracious guests, the Cardinals took advantage of two more Houston walks, a wild pitch and a throwing error in the seventh inning as they snapped a 4-4 tie by scoring twice.

Catcher Albert Rosario, who just had returned from World Baseball Classic competition in San Diego, blooped a single over a drawn-in infield to score the lead run.

In the sixth and seventh innings, the Cardinals cadged five walks from Houston moundsmen and four of them scored.

Cardinals rally for the tie

The Cardinals took advantage of three walks by Houston reliever Jordan Jankowski in the sixth inning Monday night as pinch hitter Randal Grichuk delivered a full-count single, scoring one run. The other scored on an outfield error as the Cardinals, who spotted Houston a 4-0 lead, caught the Astros at 4-4 in exhibition baseball.

The Astros escaped the inning without further incident as pinch hitter Greg Garcia rapped into a double play.

Martinez hits another homer

Cementing his bid to land an extra outfielder’s spot with the Cardinals, Jose Martinez launched his fourth homer of the spring, tied for the high on the club, when he connected for a two-run shot in the fourth inning Monday night.

Martinez’s drive to deep left center came off Houston righthander Joe Musgrove to cut the Astros’ lead to 4-2 and gave the career minor leaguer a team-high 12 runs batted in for the spring. Stephen Piscotty had singled to open the inning before Jedd Gyorko was robbed of a hit by center fielder Jake Marisnick.

Peralta starts three double plays

Third baseman Jhonny Peralta started three double plays for Cardinals starter Mike Leake in the first three innings of Monday night’s exhibition against Houston. But the Astros scored a run on the first double play in the first inning and then tacked on three more off Leake in the third, featuring Jake Marisnick’s two-run double and a run-scoring single by Josh Reddick as Houston went ahead 4-0.

A diving catch by young center fielder Harrison Bader helped prevent further damage in the third, which ended with another double play initiated by Peralta.

Noted sinkerballer Leake then got his fourth double play in the fourth but second baseman Gyorko started this one.

Carlos pitches Wednesday — and April 2? 

Although Carlos Martinez, just back from the World Baseball Classic where he pitched for the Dominican Republic team, will jump back into the rotation on Wednesday at Jupiter, Fla., Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was not ready to name him or Adam Wainwright as the first-night starter.

“I just don’t see that there’s a rush,” said Matheny Monday afternoon. “I just like giving us freedom. Say one day, I say, ‘This is the guy,’ and you’ve got to push him back for whatever reason and it’s twice as big a deal if I had never said anything.

“But I understand why you would ask.”

Martinez would have five days’ rest if he pitched the April 2 opener against Chicago and Wainwright, who will be pitching on Thursday, would have the regular four. But Martinez is ahead of Wainwright now and all signs point to Martinez being ahead of him on April 2.

Cards won't use DH; Leake to hit

The Cardinals are eschewing the designated hitter Monday night for their exhibition against the American League’s Houston Astros as pitcher Mike Leake will take his turn at bat.

The Cardinals’ pitchers have been hitting for four days now and Matheny said, “Our pitchers started swinging the bat a little earlier this year and I think they needed that bone to be thrown at them.”

Fowler scratched, Bader in

Center fielder Dexter Fowler was a late scratch in the lineup because of illness, with Harrison Bader moving into center field as the leadoff man. 

Cardinals lineup

1. Harrison Bader cf

2. Aledmys Diaz ss

3. Matt Carpenter 1b

4. Jhonny Peralta 3b

5. Stephen Piscotty rf

6. Jedd Gyorko 2b

7. Jose Martinez lf

8. Carson Kelly c

9. Mike Leake p

Houston lineup

1. Jake Marisnick cf

2. Josh Reddick rf

3. Jose Altuve 2b

4. Evan Gattis c

5. A.J. Reed 1b

6. Tyler White dh

7. Colin Morgan 3b

8. Alejandro Garcia lf

9. Reid Brignac ss

(Joe Musgrove p)

Rick Hummel

@cmshhummel on Twitter

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