Cards need Garcia to step up big in Cincy

BY foxsports • September 3, 2016

CINCINNATI -- When asked if Jaime Garcia's start on Saturday was an important one for the playoff-contending St. Louis Cardinals, manager Mike Matheny said they all are.

"At this point, every starter is key for us," he said. "Jaime's going to get an opportunity every fifth day to go out and be the kind of pitcher he can be, which is impressive when he's right".

Garcia, who will face the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday at Great American Ball Park, suffered his 10th loss in his last start on Aug. 28 against the Oakland A's. He has given up five or more earned runs in three straight starts for the first time in his career.

One thing in Garcia's favor on Saturday in hitter-friendly Great American is that he's one of the top ground-ball pitchers in baseball.

Garcia leads the National League with a 58.5 percent ground-ball percentage. He also ranks fourth in the NL in double plays.

He's also dominated Cincinnati, going 11-4 with a 3.65 ERA in 19 career starts against the Reds. His 11 wins are tied for his most against any opponent. He also has 11 wins against the Milwaukee Brewers

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Slowly but surely, the NL wild-card chasing Cardinals are getting healthy.

First baseman Matt Adams was reinstated from the disabled list on Friday. With the lineup producing top to bottom, Adams will be used mostly off the bench. Adams is 10-for-27 with two homers and five RBIs this season as a pinch-hitter.

"Object isn't to get guys at-bats, object is to win," said Matheny.

Right-hander Mike Leake could rejoin the team in Cincinnati and throw a bullpen this weekend. Leake is on the disabled list after a bout with shingles which has subsided.

Cincinnati will start right-hander Dan Straily, who has been among their most dependable starters.

Straily will make his 29th appearance and 26th start of the season on Saturday. He's limiting opponents to a .222 average, good for 10th best in the league.

In his first eight starts after the All-Star break, Straily went 6-0 with a 1.98 ERA and didn't allow more than two runs any of those games. His career-high six-game winning streak was snapped in Monday's 9-2 loss at Anaheim.

First baseman Joey Votto's torrid stretch at the plate was paused on Friday when he was out of the lineup due to a stiff neck. Votto, who batted .394 in August after hitting .419 in July, could return on Saturday.

The rebuilding Reds could have an impact on the playoff race with upcoming series against the Cardinals, Mets and Pirates.

St. Louis has lost two straight, including the series opener in Cincinnati on Eugenio Suarez's walk-off single Friday night. The Cardinals still lead the New York Mets by two games for the second wild-card spot in the NL.

But, Reds manager Bryan Price said he's not content with playing spoiler.

"I've been thinking about this .... I knew this question was coming. It comes up every year you're not in it," Price said. "The only thing that matters to us is we're out there winning games. We need to make it about our team. We can't worry about contenders. They need to go through Cincinnati to get there."