(BaseballStL) — It can’t last forever, but the dominance of Cardinal starters continued Sunday as Jaime Garcia kept Washington’s bats effectively muted in the series finale.
He worked through the first four innings quickly, running into trouble only once.
In the top of the second, he recorded a quick ground out from Ryan Zimmerman, but surrendered back-to-back singles to Scott Hairston and Ian Desmond. The first was contained to a single base by a tremendous play off the wall by Matt Holliday, which kept the second from being a run.
Garcia then plunked Danny Espinosa to load the bases.
Despite falling behind 2-0 to Sandy Leon, he coaxed a grounder to Matt Carpenter who fielded it and fired to the plate to keep a run off the board.
“With his style of pitching he has to trust his defense. In order for him to attack the strike zone he needs to trust the fact that the good play- the right play- is going to be made behind him,” Mike Matheny said after the game. “That confidence allows him to be a little more free in the zone.”
Perhaps feeling the immediate effects of sound glove work behind him, Garcia struck out opposing pitcher Doug Fister to strand three Nationals and escape the jam.
Four two more scoreless innings followed, helped along by twin web gems from Allen Craig and Kolten Wong in the fourth, before the Nationals finally touched up the Cardinal lefty for a solitary run.
After a leadoff single by Espinosa, Garcia loosed a wild pitch to move him to second. A come backer followed, then a strikeout of Fister to make it two outs. The inning would be extended when Anthony Rendon walked, and Nate McLouth picked up an infield single. It was a strange play as Adams fielded the ball, but had no one to flip to. He and Garcia both lost the race to the bag to the Nationals’ outfielder.
With no vacancy on the bases, Jayson Werth stepped to the dish. In five pitches- two in the dirt- he was issued a free pass to first and the shutout was no more.
That was the sum total of the damage, however, as Ryan Zimmerman grounded to Matt Carpenter to end the inning.
“That’s the goal. You should never give in, and just continue to make pitches no matter what the situation is behind you,” Garcia said at his locker. “I probably didn’t have my best stuff. Every time I go out there I’m not looking to have my best stuff. You always have to find ways. Find ways to keep us in the game. That’s the bottom line.”
The lefty hit his mark, since the single run was outmatched by the three the Cardinals had already put up. It was Garcia’s second start of 100 or more pitches.
Matheny, praising the string of effective starts by his rotation, attributed different factors as success for his starters. For Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller, the skipper pointed to maturation and experience. For Garcia, it has more to do with his road back.
“Jaime has been around awhile,” Matheny said. [For him it’s] getting confidence and watching himself do it more often.”
He is now 3-0 on the season. On the eve of his first start this year, the 27-year-old said his goal was to compete. Comfort came secondary.
Sunday, he threw seven innings with sub-par stuff, and gave up one run through two hairy situations.
“I worked really hard since the surgery to get to where I’m at right now,” he said, reflecting on the journey. “Between starts you take care of business and do what you need to do to prepare yourself for the next start and that’s all I can worry about.”
Looking ahead, Garcia’s next start is slated for Friday against the Phillies. He’s 2-3 lifetime against Philadelphia in eight games.