Jaime Garcia flirted with a no-hitter on Thursday before settling for a shutout, his first since 2011. He notched a career-high 13 strikeouts in the 1-hitter and induced a flurry of groundball contact to lift the Cardinals to a 7-0 win and series victory over the Brewers at Busch Stadium.
Garcia was sharp from the top and threw no more than 14 pitches in any inning. The lone Milwaukee batter to reach against him in the first three innings did so on a strikeout, and the Brewers didn't muster another baserunner until Domingo Santana laced a two-out single in the sixth. That would be the only hit allowed by Garcia, who had never before pitched nine innings while allowing one or fewer hits. In addition to his 13 strikeouts, he registered 13 groundball outs.
"During the game, I try not to pay attention to what's going on behind me, but [instead] just focus on the next pitch," Garcia said. "That's the mentality that I try to have. But obviously once the game is over, I do enjoy it."
The start wasn't only the best of Garcia's eight-year career, but he also became the first left-hander in franchise history to throw a one-hit shutout and strike out at least 13.
"No matter what pitch he wanted to throw up there, if he was locating it, which he was, he had a good chance of something happening his way," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "He just had it all going."
The first handful of Brewers hitters returned to the dugout grumbling about the quality of Garcia's stuff.
"The thing they talked about was the movement on every pitch," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "On the sinker. On the changeup, which was acting like a split-finger. He had plus-plus movement today, late movement."
Garcia contributed offensively, as well, extending the second inning with a single and then scoring on Matt Carpenter's two-run double off Brewers starter Wily Peralta, who allowed five runs in five innings. Garcia finished with more hits (two) than he allowed. Two-run homers by Randal Grichuk and Jeremy Hazelbaker later padded the lead for the Cardinals, who have won five of their last six.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED So close: Brewers rookie center fielder Keon Broxton had a chance for a Mike Troutmoment in the third inning when he leaped at the wall for Grichuk's deep drive. Broxton was positioned well and timed his leap perfectly, but the baseball struck in the heel of his glove and popped out for a two-run home run and a 5-0 St. Louis lead. Adding insult, the umpires and the Brewers appeared not to notice that Grichuk passed a baserunner, Brandon Moss, near first base as Moss retreated to tag up. By Rule 5.09(b)(9), Grichuk should have been called out on the play and been credited with an RBI single, with first baseman Jonathan Lucroy credited with a putout on a ball hit 400 feet away.
"Our eyes all missed it," Counsell said. "The umpires missed it, the video guys didn't get it until too late. We just missed it." More >
Double trouble: Carpenter, who came into the game with one double in his first 30 at-bats, tallied two on Thursday. Both helped generate run-scoring innings, too. Carpenter's two-out, two-run double in the second capped a three-run inning, and his leadoff double in the seventh put him on base ahead of Hazelbaker, who launched a two-run home run. Carpenter now has five extra-base hits and eight RBIs in his last five games.
What's wrong with Wily? Through three starts, the Brewers' choice for Opening Day has yet to throw a pitch past the fifth inning. Peralta's ERA is 10.13 after he surrendered five runs on seven hits Thursday. Left-handed batters are 11-for-23 against Peralta this season, including five extra-base hits. More >
Hazelbaker stays hot: Hazelbaker's grip on an everyday spot in the Cardinals' lineup only got stronger in this series. He notched his third multi-hit game in his last four and took back the early team lead with his third home run. The rookie outfielder has an extra-base hit in six of his first nine games in the Majors and has 10 hits in five games since moving into the two-hole in the lineup.
QUOTABLE "You're kind of in auto-drive. I'm jogging because, obviously, you don't want to pass him. You're taught on deep fly balls like that to tag up. [Moss] actually didn't see it go over right away and got a little confused there rounding first and going back to first." -- Grichuk, on inadvertently bypassing Moss on the bases while beginning his home run trot
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Yadier Molina's second-inning double was the 124th of his career at Busch Stadium, a ballpark record. Molina entered the day tied with Albert Pujols for most two-base hits at the stadium, which opened in 2006.
TOUGH DAY AT THE PLATE, TOO Broxton's frustrations were not limited to center field. A rookie who went 0-for-2 for the Pirates last September and made his first Opening Day roster this spring, Broxton went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts Thursday, and is 0-for-14 with 10 strikeouts this season.
"I think I kind of overthink and get myself out of my game plan," Broxton said. "I got a lot of good pitches to hit, and I just didn't pull the trigger."
He said he has been working on a change to his batting stance to stand taller and position his hands closer to his body.
"I have to get my confidence back," Broxton said.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers:Jimmy Nelson carries a .178 opponents batting average into Friday's game against the Pirates at PNC Park. He's 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts this season and has had success against the Bucs, going 4-2 with a 2.48 ERA in six starts last season. Jeff Locke's first pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT.
Cardinals: The Cardinals host the Reds, who open a three-game series at Busch Stadium with a 7:15 p.m. CT game on Friday. Right-hander Carlos Martinez, who allowed two runs over six innings in his season debut, draws the start against Tim Melville.
The Brewers and Cardinals will join all of Major League Baseball in celebrating Jackie Robinson Day on Friday.