ST. LOUIS -- Jaime Garcia normally pitches to contact.
The St. Louis Cardinals left-hander didn't try to do anything different on Thursday but missed plenty of bats on the way to the best performance of his seven-year major league career.
A model of efficiency, Garcia (1-0) threw just 104 pitches in his first shutout since May 6, 2011 -- also against Milwaukee. Seventy-two were for strikes, including the final one, an 83 mph slider that froze Scooter Gennett for a called third strike to conclude a two-hour, 29-minute masterpiece.
"Awesome," Garcia said of the performance. "I was just trying to focus on one pitch at a time and keep us in the ballgame."
It was obvious from the start that Garcia was exceptionally sharp. He struck out four straight hitters during one stretch, slipping called third strikes past Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy -- the third and fourth batters in the Brewers' lineup.
Milwaukee (4-5) didn't get a ball to the outfield until Lucroy lined out to center fielder Randal Grichuk in the fourth, and by that time, St. Louis (5-4) owned a 5-0 lead that might as well have been 500-0, given Garcia's movement and location.
"The thing they talked about was just the movement on every pitch," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He had plus, plus, plus late movement."
Garcia also outhit Milwaukee by himself, going 2-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt. His two-out single in the second extended the inning for Matt Carpenter to lash a two-run double to right center, capping a three-run outburst that signaled the beginning of another bad outing for Brewers starter Wily Peralta.
Grichuk added an odd two-run homer in the third for a 5-0 lead. Center fielder Keon Braxton nearly robbed Grichuk of the homer, but the ball tipped off his glove and nestled into the lawn directly behind the wall.
What's more, replays appeared to show Grichuk passing Brandon Moss, who was holding between first and second to see if Broxton caught the ball. Neither the umpires nor Milwaukee detected the violation. Had it been called, Grichuk would have been out.
"It was something I don't think any of us had seen before," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It was real close ... I think you can call it a learning experience."
With Garcia peppering the inner and outer edges of the strike zone at will, the only remaining suspense was whether the Brewers would avoid being the season's first no-hit victims. Domingo Santana erased that notion with a clean single to right with two outs in the sixth.
Milwaukee managed only two other base runners. Braxton reached first on a wild pitch on strike three in the third and Martin Maldonado coaxed a leadoff walk in the eighth.
But Garcia quickly wiped out that threat with a double play ball and cruised to the finish line for his fourth career shutout.
"I don't know how you could be much better," Matheny said of Garcia. "He was in control the whole day. Every time he walks out there, he has the potential to throw a no-hitter. People laugh at that, but they just don't see how odd and rare his stuff is."
Rookie Jeremy Hazelbaker capped the scoring with a two-run homer off reliever Chris Capuano in the seventh, his third in his first nine big league games. Hazelbaker is batting a robust .481 with a slugging percentage of 1.000.
Peralta (0-3) was tagged for seven hits and five runs in five innings, walking two and fanning five. The performance actually lowered his ERAe from 10.80 to 10.13.
"You just work as hard as you can to get better for the next one, because my first three (starts) have been terrible," Peralta said.
On the other hand, the adjective that best fits Garcia's effort was masterful.
"It's been a while since I've been able to go nine innings," he said. "It's definitely fun."
NOTES: St. Louis SS Ruben Tejada (left quad strain) will start a rehab assignment Thursday at Double-A Springfield. He could be activated as soon as Sunday. ... Milwaukee OF Ramon Flores' single in the fourth inning on Wednesday night gave him the first RBI of his MLB career. ... The Cardinals have scored 24 runs with two outs and have 21 two-out RBI, second in the majors to San Francisco's 24.