Garcia finding groove down stretch

Jaime Garcia had his fourth consecutive strong outing Monday in a 4-2 win over the Reds.

ST. LOUIS – For all the deserved talk of what Kyle Lohse, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter mean for the Cardinals chances of repeating as World Series champions, lefty Jaime Garcia sure hasn’t been mentioned much.


If he keeps pitching like this, he’ll get his time to shine soon enough.


Garcia rolled off his fourth impressive start in a row Monday night to help the Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds, 4-2, at Busch Stadium. The win dropped their magic number to clinch the second wild card spot to 1.


The trio of Lohse, Wainwright and Carpenter are sure to be important pieces if the Cardinals plan on doing something special the next few weeks. But Garcia could arguably provide as big a boost as any of them, especially considering he’s the only left-hander among the group.


Garcia allowed two earned runs in 6 2/3 strong innings Monday against Cincinnati, allowing six hits and striking out six in his final regular season start of the year.


“He looked good right from the beginning,” said manger Mike Matheny. “Right from the first batter, you could see almost emergency swings on the fastball so you could tell it was running all over the place. Another indicator is when you see Yadi having trouble catching, you know the ball is doing things that most of the time it doesn’t. He had a good feel for the ball tonight.”


The left-hander missed more than two months with a shoulder impingement but has made nine starts since returning on August 19. His first five were OK. His last four have been downright dominant.


Garcia has a 2.10 ERA in 25 2/3 innings over his past four starts, allowing 21 hits and striking out 21. He had a streak of 12 consecutive scoreless innings snapped Monday on a two-out hit from Brandon Phillips in the third.


Tabbed as the Cardinals No. 4 starter, Garcia could get the call to start Game 2 of the Division Series at Busch Stadium should the Cardinals advance. Garcia pitches much better at home and could help steal a game for the Cardinals before they head on the road.


Garcia allowed just two earned runs in 10 innings over two starts in last year’s World Series with both starts coming at Busch Stadium.


“Every single time I take the mound, I’m trying to do my best and I take pride in that,” Garcia said. “I’m feeling good right now physically and that’s all I can say. I’ll be ready for whatever is next.


“I’m just worried about one game at a time, one pitch at a time. If it happens that we get in the playoffs, I’ll be ready for that.”


Starting Garcia at home would allow the Cardinals to use some combination of Carpenter, Wainwright and Lohse in the three potential road games in the Division Series.  Not a bad scenario for a team that’s supposed to be the underdogs.


Garcia came up big for the Cardinals last postseason. And if he continues to pitch like he did Monday, he’ll surely get a chance to try and do it again.


“He’s in a nice spot right now,” Matheny said. “Hopefully we can keep him there.”