The St. Louis Cardinals haven't been playing their best baseball over the past week, but they're still holding the NL's second wild-card spot.
Getting Jaime Garcia back to his old self down the stretch could give them an excellent chance of staying there.
Garcia looks to bounce back from a rough outing and earn his first win since mid-May on Tuesday night against the visiting New York Mets , who hope to see more positive signs from Matt Harvey as the rookie's season winds down.
St. Louis (73-62) has lost five of its last seven games - totaling four runs in those losses - but managed to find some offense in Monday's opener against the Mets (64-71) even with right fielder Carlos Beltran out due to a sore knee.
Beltran, who's day to day, still managed to contribute to the 5-4 win. When it looked like New York's Andres Torres led off the ninth with a double, Beltran urged manager Mike Matheny to appeal, saying Torres never touched first base. The decision worked, as first base umpire Dave Rackley ruled that he missed it, paving the way for Jason Motte 's 33rd save to be much easier than it initially seemed.
"Our MVP of the game today is Carlos Beltran , who never hit the field," Matheny told the Cardinals' official website.
St. Louis is hoping Garcia (3-6, 4.52 ERA) can become its third reliable starter as it makes its postseason push, but he didn't look the part Thursday at Washington. The left-hander gave up six runs and nine hits over 5 1-3 innings in an 8-1 loss, his second straight in his third start since returning from a shoulder injury.
Still, Garcia felt better than when he allowed four runs over six innings in Cincinnati five days earlier.
"It's just one of those things that I felt like every single little mistake that I made, I feel like they took advantage of it," Garcia said.
Garcia hasn't recorded a victory in six starts dating to May 16 - getting just 2.62 runs of support per nine innings - but perhaps Tuesday is an ideal time to get back in the win column. He's 1-0 with a 1.31 ERA in three starts against New York.
While Garcia is fresh after missing 10 weeks, Harvey (3-3, 2.76) is nearing the end of his season. The right-hander, who pitched 110 innings with Triple-A Buffalo before being called up in late July, will likely appear once more after Tuesday due to an innings limit.
He certainly isn't failing to impress. Harvey is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last three outings after limiting Philadelphia to two runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 3-2 win Wednesday.
"I see much better stuff up here than the reports I got from the minor leagues," manager Terry Collins told the Mets' official website. "As he continues to pitch at the major league level, he's going to get better. He's just driven like that."
His eighth major league start could come on the same day top Cardinals prospect Shelby Miller makes his debut. The right-hander will be among a wave of players arriving from Memphis upon the conclusion of the Triple-A season.
He'll pitch out of the bullpen initially. After going 4-8 with a 6.17 ERA in his first 17 starts with the Redbirds, Miller is 7-2 with a 2.88 ERA in his last 10.
"It really seemed like he turned the corner in the way he was going about it," Matheny said. " ... Then we look at the fact that we're right in this thing. So we have to have our best. And if he's one of our best right now, then he should be here."
|New York Mets|
|August 18, 2012||Johan Santana||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|August 15, 2012||Rob Johnson||15-Day DL||Torn ligament, left thumb|
|August 02, 2012||Tim Byrdak||15-Day DL||Sore left shoulder|
|July 31, 2012||Andres Torres||Day-to-Day||Strained right thumb|
|July 31, 2012||Jason Bay||Day-to-Day||Bruised left calf|
|July 21, 2012||Johan Santana||15-Day DL||Sprained right ankle|
|St. Louis Cardinals|
|August 31, 2012||Rafael Furcal||15-Day DL||Torn UCL, right elbow - out for season|
|August 30, 2012||Rafael Furcal||Day-to-Day||Left game - right elbow strain|
|August 28, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained upper back|
|August 25, 2012||David Freese||Day-to-Day||Left wrist contusion|
|August 25, 2012||Yadier Molina||Day-to-Day||Sprained ankle|
|August 21, 2012||Carlos Beltran||Day-to-Day||Right hand injury|
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Jaime Garcia has always been a better pitcher at Busch Stadium than on the road. The New York Mets saw just how much better the lefty can be.
Garcia carried a shutout into the eighth inning and Yadier Molina got his 1,000th career hit with an infield single that started a three-run second against rookie Matt Harvey in the St. Louis Cardinals' 5-1 victory Tuesday night.
For his career, Garcia is 18-11 with a 2.42 ERA at home, and 13-11 with a 4.59 ERA on the road. The disparity is more than three earned runs per game this year, 2.63 vs. 5.80.
"You don't ignore trends. Statistics are what they are, it's data," manager Mike Matheny said. "But there's no great explanation for it because he has good stuff.
"He has better than good stuff - he has great stuff."
Asked twice about the comforts of home after the game, Garcia had little to offer.
"It's part of the game sometimes," he said. "Sometimes, you feel good at home. But I don't know."
Daniel Descalso and David Freese had two hits and an RBI apiece for the Cardinals, who are 42-26 at home for the second-best mark in the National League. St. Louis will go for a three-game sweep Wednesday with Adam Wainwright facing 17-game winner R.A. Dickey.
The defending World Series champions have a slim lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL's second wild card.
Descalso botched a double-play grounder in the eighth but also stole third in the sixth, putting him in position to score on John Jay's groundout against Justin Hampson that made it 4-0.
Pinch-hitter Mike Baxter hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly off Lance Lynn in the eighth. Left fielder Adron Chambers , who ran for Matt Holliday in the seventh, caught Daniel Murphy 's drive at the left-field wall to end the threat and then bounced into the fence in front of the visitors' bullpen.
"That's that football coming out of me," said Chambers, a former defensive back at Southern Mississippi. "I was glad I was able to make that play, give me another opportunity to see what I can do."
Holliday left the game with lower back tightness after walking to start the seventh. The Cardinals said Holliday, among the league leaders with 92 RBIs, was day to day.
"It just tightened up," Matheny said. "So we'll re-evaluate tomorrow."
Garcia (4-6) gave up an unearned run in 7 1-3 innings for his first victory in five decisions since May 16 and first in four starts since coming off the disabled list. He was sidelined for 64 games by a shoulder strain.
In two home starts since then he's allowed one run in 15 1-3 innings while going 0-2 on the road and giving up 10 runs in 11 1-3 innings. Garcia is 2-2 at home with a 2.63 ERA this year and 2-4 with a 5.80 ERA on the road.
Molina got a prolonged ovation after barely beating David Wright 's throw on a slow roller up the third base line for his milestone hit. The Cardinals added three more singles by Freese, Skip Schumaker and Descalso to open the inning.
"He hung a couple of breaking balls up," Mets manager Terry Collins said about Harvey. "They spray it around. They're a good-hitting club."
That was the only spot of trouble for Harvey, the Mets' 2010 first-round draft pick, whose five-inning stint matched the shortest of his eight career starts. His string of four consecutive quality starts was the Mets' best in a single season by a rookie since Jae Seo had six straight in 2003.
"I'm not happy about it," Harvey said. "I've got to go out there, go deeper in the game. I've got to get quicker outs, keep the pitch counts down, and I didn't do that tonight.
"I should have been better."
Harvey (3-4) has thrown 157 1-3 innings this season, including 110 for Triple-A Buffalo, and may have only one left because the Mets don't want to overload the 24-year-old right-hander. They have scored just 16 runs while Harvey was in the game.
Collins said the Mets haven't made a final decision on Harvey's workload, but added: "There's not going to be many more."
NOTES: Garcia had three sacrifice bunts after entering the game with one in his first 14 starts. ... Retired Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart and Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis threw out first pitches. Laurinaitis left shortly after his appearance to study film for Sunday's opener at Detroit. ... RHP Jeurys Familia, among the Mets' call-ups, worked a scoreless eighth in his major league debut.