Garcia takes matters into his own hands to lift Birds over Royals in I-70 opener

BY foxsports • June 13, 2015

ST. LOUIS -- When pitches have so much movement that Yadier Molina occasionally has trouble catching them, it's going to be a tough night for the hitters.

Kansas City learned that lesson the hard way against Jaime Garcia in his most dominant performance of an impressive season that just keeps getting better. None of the Royals' four hits off Garcia even left the infield as the lefty carried the Cardinals to a 4-0 win over the American League's best team.

"You could obviously tell the sinker was working, getting those kind of groundballs, but he also had his breaking ball going and changeup," manager Mike Matheny said. "I don't know if you can ask any more than what we saw today."

Garcia did just about everything right in his fifth start of the season, especially on the mound. He needed only 95 pitches to get through eight innings with six strikeouts and 11 groundball outs.

Two of those could have easily been singles up the middle if not for quick reactions by Garcia, who reached behind his back to deflect a hard-hit ball and then ran it down in time to throw out Eric Hosmer for the first out in the second. Reliever Joe Blanton got robbed of his first hit since 2013 on a sharp come-backer to the mound to lead off the sixth.

The Cardinals hadn't scored in three of Garcia's first four starts, so he did his part to change that against Kansas City's Yordano Ventura. A two-out RBI single through the hole on the left side scored Jon Jay, who had tripled home Randal Grichuk to open the scoring in the bottom of the second. Garcia also lined out to center fielder Lorenzo Cain at the warning track in the fifth.

"Yeah, he can swing it," Matheny said. "I think he's moved up our ladder of pitchers taking at-bats, so that'll make the guys happy."

Mostly, though, they'll keep enjoying the remarkable resurgence from the talented 28-year-old known more for his injuries than his pitching in recent years. Since coming off the disabled list to take the spot in the rotation that originally belonged to ace Adam Wainwright, Garcia has gone at least seven innings in four of five starts with a 2.06 ERA.

Matheny said those past injury issues were the main reason he went to his bullpen, even after St. Louis added two more runs in the eighth to give closer Trevor Rosenthal the night off. Garcia wanted to stay in the game, and even Matheny acknowledged it wouldn't have been a bad time to push him considering how good he looked.

"The ball just takes off and sails different depending on his release point," Matheny said. "It's no fun. No fun to catch, no fun to hit."

That unique movement makes it even more impressive Garcia hasn't issued a walk in his last four starts, a total of 30 innings. Kansas City hitters often went flailing at pitches well out of the strike zone, although Omar Infante and Alex Gordon both struck out looking.

Garcia said that command is the most valuable thing for him to have on the mound, and he stressed the importance of finally returning to full health. The Royals had no answer, leaving manager Ned Yost to ask hitting coach Dale Sveum what he saw in the sixth inning.

"He said, 'You would not believe his command and execution of his pitches. All four of them,'" Yost said. "He said, 'He could walk to the plate with a ball and say I want to put it here and that's where he was putting it.'"

You can follow Luke Thompson on Twitter at @FS_LukeT or email him at lukegthompson87@gmail.com.


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