In the first showdown of the season, it was the rookies and second-year players who carried the Cardinals in the first game of a four-game series against the Phillies.
Rookie Jaime Garcia gained the win by holding the Phillies to one run and three hits in six innings. In five starts this year, Garcia has given up only four earned runs, and he kept the Phillies' left-handed batters off-balance with his slider and curveball. Three of his six strikeouts were against All-Stars Ryan Howard (two) and Chase Utley.
"You've got to be kidding me," rookie third baseman David Freese said. "He's unbelievable."
That last word could be applied to Freese's last week. Hours after being named the National League Player of the Week for hitting safely in six straight games and driving in 11 runs, Freese knocked in three more Monday in a five-run seventh inning. Those came after Matt Holliday was walked intentionally to load the bases.
Freese is 10-for-21 with men in scoring position this season. "What David is doing is out of this world," manager Tony La Russa said.
Nick Stavinoha, in his first full season in the major leagues, cracked his second pinch homer of the season, both game-winners. This one, on his 28th birthday, came as he batted for Garcia leading off the seventh. Stavinoha is 5-for-13 as a pinch hitter.
And second-year center fielder Colby Rasmus, who was blanked in all three weekend games (0-for-12) drove in two runs and was 3-for-3.
CARDINALS 6, PHILLIES
3: Jaime Garcia
walked four hitters but gave up just three hits over six innings in shackling a
--3B David Freese hit safely in his seventh straight game. He is 14-for-27 in that span.
--SS Brendan Ryan likes batting ninth. In six starts hitting last, Ryan, who had two hits Monday, is 7-for-20 (.350). "I think everything comes down to pitch selection," Ryan said. "I got into the habit of swinging at everything in batting practice."
--The Cardinals were accorded two more intentional walks. Their major league lead swelled to 20. The second free pass, to LF Matt Holliday after the count ran to 3-1, cost the Phillies, as Freese stroked a bases-loaded double to right-center to break open the game.
--One of manager Tony La Russa's benchmarks was reached in just the club's 18th game. The Cardinals, winners of eight of their last nine games, already are 10 games over .500 at 18-8. "It was a terrific game for us," said La Russa, praising the overall effort.
--For the 20th straight game, the Cardinals' starting pitcher did not allow a home run. The streak came close to ending, but the umpires checked the replays to confirm the initial call by first base umpire Adrian Johnson that 2B Chase Utley's first-inning drive to right was foul.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Home runs allowed by the Cardinals in their first 13 games at home, through May 2.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's worth everything he gets because he's proved it." -- 1B Albert Pujols on the $125 million contract extension for his friend, Phillies 1B Ryan Howard.
--INF Felipe Lopez (strained right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list April 26. As of May 3, he hadn't resumed swinging a bat.