Garcia tosses complete masterpiece

Monday, August 23, 2010
The Cardinals' Allen Craig connects for an RBI single during the eighth inning Sunday against the Giants in St. Louis. Craig had two hits, including a two-run home run. (Tom Gannam ~ Associated Press)

The Cardinals rookie pitcher allowed three hits in a 9-0 shutout of the Giants

ST. LOUIS -- Jaime Garcia piled up the outs so fast, the St. Louis Cardinals had to let the rookie finish.

The 24-year-old left-hander threw a three-hitter for his first career shutout, and first outing longer than seven innings, in a 9-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday.

The Cardinals have been babying Garcia along after he pitched only 37 2/3 innings in the minors last season after reconstruction elbow surgery. Learning from experience, Garcia said he didn't peek at the scoreboard to check his pitch count.

"I'm doing a lot better at that, not thinking about things like that," Garcia said. "That gets you out of the game. Just focus on the next pitch you're going to make and that's it."

Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia receives a hug from catcher Yadier Molina after throwing his first career shutout Sunday against the Giants in St. Louis. (Tom Gannam ~ Associated Press)

Garcia's the first Cardinals rookie to throw a shutout since Bud Smith's no-hitter at San Diego on Sept. 3, 2001, and the first to do it at home since Jose Jimenez on July 5, 1999, against Arizona.

Fellow rookie Allen Craig hit a two-run home run and had three RBIs for the Cardinals. Jon Jay had three hits and an RBI and Brendan Ryan and Yadier Molina each had two hits and an RBI.

St. Louis knocked out Barry Zito in the fourth inning, rebounding from a five-game losing streak to take two of three from the Giants.

St. Louis, which remained 3 1/2 games behind the NL Central-leading Reds, is 50-27 in games started by Garcia, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and 17-27 otherwise.

"Long day for the guys out there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "You can't let a game or two get you down. We're headed home. We hope to play better."

St. Louis Cardinals' Allen Craig (8) connects for a RBI single in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants, Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010 in St. Louis. Craig had two hits, including a two-run home run, and three rbi's as the Cardinals beat the Giants 9-0.(AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

Garcia (11-6) was razor sharp working on regular rest after getting two extra days the previous two outings, facing one batter over the minimum while striking out six. He did not walk a batter and needed only 89 pitches. Before Sunday, he had never pitched in the eighth.

When Garcia came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, he got a standing ovation. He made one of the best defensive plays to start the ninth, snaring Juan Uribe's hot comebacker.

"It's a great feeling when I was hitting and all the people were standing, and when I was on the mound," Garcia said. "I think this is the greatest day of my baseball career."

Pat Burrell singled leading off the second and fifth and both times he was erased quickly on double-play balls by Jose Guillen. Nate Schierholtz singled with two outs in the ninth before Garcia finished it by getting Aaron Rowand to ground out.

Garcia hasn't allowed an earned run in his last two starts, giving up three unearned runs in six innings in a 3-2 loss to the Brewers on Tuesday. Garcia, who leads NL rookies in victories, lowered his ERA to 2.42.

St. Louis Cardinals' Jon Jay (15) scores from second on a single by Matt Holiday as San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Barry Zito (75) runs to cover the throw home in the third inning of a baseball game, Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010, in St. Louis.(AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

Zito (8-8) lasted only 3 2/3 innings, surrendering five runs on seven hits. He handled the Cardinals the first time through the order, allowing only a hit and a walk, but the Cardinals were 5 for 7 with a walk and sacrifice fly the second time around.

Zito has won only one of his last 13 starts and is 1-5 against the Cardinals. He's allowed at least one homer in six of the last seven starts, totaling nine.

"Tough out there," Zito said. "Speaking for myself, I'm not going out there giving the team a chance to win."

Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Felipe Lopez had an RBI apiece in the third. Craig had been 2 for 18 on the homestand before hitting his second homer in the fourth for a 5-0 lead, and Garcia singled and scored in a three-run fifth that included RBIs from Molina, Ryan and Jay.

Craig, who's batting .191 after going 2 for 5, matched his career best of three RBIs on a bloop single in the eighth.

"I know the numbers aren't there right now, but I feel OK and I'm just going to keep battling," Craig said. "I'm confident things will turn around."

Noteworthy

* Joe Cunningham, who played with the Cardinals in the 1950s and later served in the front office, was honored in a pregame ceremony.

* The Cardinals moved Garcia ahead of Lohse, who'll start today in Pittsburgh. Lohse is 4-0 with a 2.14 ERA against the Pirates.

* New Cardinals third baseman Pedro Feliz snared Buster Posey's liner down the line to end the first and assisted on the other two outs in a perfect first for Garcia.

* Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has batted the pitcher ninth the last two games, both victories.

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