Jaime Garcia pitches, hits St. Louis Cardinals past Atlanta Braves

By Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia delivers a pitch to the Atlanta Braves in the first inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on August 5, 2016. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
1 of 3 | St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia delivers a pitch to the Atlanta Braves in the first inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on August 5, 2016. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

ST. LOUIS -- After knocking in the only run in his 1-0 shutout of the Atlanta Braves Friday night, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia was asked if he did that during his high school career.

"I don't think so," he said, grinning. "I think I did it a bunch of times in Little League."


Garcia certainly made the Atlanta hitters look like 12-year olds in Busch Stadium, carving them up to the tune of 11 strikeouts on only 89 pitches in eight scoreless innings. In upping his record to 8-8, Garcia allowed just three hits and a walk.

It was a dramatic turnaround from his last outing on July 30 in Miami, where he allowed four runs in his first 15 pitches and departed after 3 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits and six runs in an 11-0 defeat that he pitched on three days rest.


Whether five days rest, a feeble Braves lineup or simply better stuff was the difference -- or a combination of all three -- Garcia dominated. He whiffed Freddie Freeman and Jeff Francoeur three times each while fanning Matt Kemp twice.

"He had all three pitches working tonight," Francoeur said of Garcia. "He was doing what he wanted whenever he wanted."

Atlanta's best shot to reach Garcia came in the fourth, when Ender Inciarte walked and Gordon Beckham singled to put men at the corners with no outs for its 3-4-5 hitters.

But Garcia fooled Freeman with a 2-2 breaking ball for a called third strike. Kemp flailed to no avail at a back-foot slider for the second out, and Adonis Garcia rapped into an inning-ending fielder's choice.

"Tonight is what we talk about when everything is coming out of his hand the way it should," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said of Jaime Garcia. "It was impressive and dominating. You could tell the breaking ball and changeup were falling off the table."

Garcia retired the last 11 hitters he faced after Anthony Recker's one-out double in the fifth and might have been granted a chance to go for his second shutout of the year had the offense produced more than a single tally from seven walks.


But Matheny opted for closer Seung Hwan Oh, who finished off his ninth save with Freeman's fourth punchout of the game.

As for Garcia's contribution with the bat, he punched a first-pitch sinker from Joel De La Cruz (0-4) into right field with two outs in the bottom of the second. Matt Holliday scored from second as the strong-armed Francoeur bounced his throw towards the plate.

"I'm not a good hitter, but I try my best to get a good swing at the ball," Garcia said.

"It was just a bad throw, kind of straight in the ground," Francoeur said. "It was a frustrating one."

De La Cruz set up the game's only meaningful hit by walking Holliday and Jeremy Hazelbaker, extending the inning to Garcia's spot. Aside from five walks, De La Cruz pitched a decent game, yielding just two hits and a run in 5 1/3 innings with two strikeouts, but it wasn't enough to keep the Braves from dropping to 39-70.

The Cardinals missed on a glorious opportunity in the sixth, when they drew three straight walks against De La Cruz and Jose Ramirez to load the bases with one out. But Brandon Moss was gunned down by Francoeur by about five feet as he tried to score on Jedd Gyorko's shallow fly ball.


However, that failure didn't come back to haunt St. Louis (58-51), which grabbed a half-game lead for the National League's second wild-card spot over Miami, pending the outcome of the Marlins' game in Colorado.

For that, it can thank the guy who carried them with his left arm and his bat.

NOTES: St. Louis activated All-Star Matt Carpenter (right oblique strain) from the 15-day DL Friday and inserted him into his normal leadoff spot, playing second base. The team optioned LHP Dean Kiekhefer to Triple-A Memphis to make room for him. ... Atlanta announced after Friday night's game that it will call up RHP Roberto Hernandez, who went by Fausto Carmona when winning 19 games for the 2007 Cleveland Indians, to start Saturday night. ... Cardinals RHP Jordan Walden (right shoulder strain) said his arm is feeling much better and is shooting for a September comeback. He hasn't pitched in the majors since last April.

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