Garcia, featuring a darting slider, twirled his seventh consecutive "quality start," blanking Cincinnati for six innings before issuing the first homer he's given up all season -- a two-run drive by the Reds' Drew Stubbs in the seventh. But four relievers managed to hang on to the lead provided by two-run homers from Pujols (No. 8) and Ludwick (No. 5).
Ludwick hadn't homered in a long time but he has been hot at bat. Like Matt Holliday, he extended a hitting streak to seven games and in three of the last four, Ludwick has had three hits to push his average from the .250s close to .300.
His fifth-inning drive following Colby Rasmus' double proved to be the game-winning hit. "I got a good pitch to hit and I didn't miss it," said Ludwick. "It's nice to hit a homer. I hadn't hit one for a while."
Manager Tony La Russa said, "He's got a nice stroke when he swings at strikes."
But, again, this was about Garcia, who pitched just 37 2/3 innings in the minors last year after he had recovered from Tommy John elbow surgery in September of 2008.
"He's something special," said Ludwick. "It's nice to have a lefty in that rotation. And not only a lefty, but one who's pitching lights-out."
Garcia (4-2), who has given up just seven earned runs in seven starts (1.42 ERA), has held left-handed batters to only three hits in 32 at-bats. He got out of a bases-loaded spot in the first inning by fanning left-handed batting Jay Bruce, and that proved to be the key out of the game.
"Great composure," said La Russa. "He doesn't look like a rookie to me."
CARDINALS 4, REDS 3: The Cardinals, in danger of falling out of first place in the NL Central Division for just the first time all season, fought off second-place Cincinnati when RHP Ryan Franklin got PH Ramon Hernandez to ground into a game-ending double play with two on and one out in the ninth. The twin killing was started by struggling SS Brendan Ryan, who went to one knee to handle an in-between hop. The win was just the Cardinals' third in their last 10 games.
NOTES AND QUOTES
2B Skip Schumaker, moved back to No. 7 in the order from the leadoff spot, had his first two-hit game in eight days, including a ninth-inning single off tough Cincinnati LHP Arthur Rhodes. Schumaker is 8-for-20 (.400) against lefthanders.
Three Cardinals relievers—RHP Kyle McClellan, LHP Trever Miller and RHP Mitchell Boggs—did their jobs in the seventh and eighth before RHP Ryan Franklin got his eighth save in nine tries despite giving up a ninth-inning run. Miller, who faced just one batter (1B Joey Votto) has stranded 11 of 12 inherited runners.
RHP Chris Carpenter, not throwing as hard as last year, said he occasionally still feels some numbness in his right hand or arm the day after a start, relating to a previous nerve condition he had in his arm. But Carpenter continues to perform an exercise regiment to ease the condition. "I'm not going out there if I feel I can't get outs," Carpenter said. "I'm not going out there if it hurts. I'm not going out there if I feel I can't do my job."
First-base coach Dave McKay is working with CF Colby Rasmus to improve Rasmus' throwing from the outfield. "He's just become conditioned to making his throws to second base a certain way (on one hop) because of what we emphasize," said McKay. By trying to bounce the ball from the outfield, Rasmus has come up short a couple of times in throwing the ball home and McKay said, "We'll adjust with Colby."
3B David Freese, settling
into the No. 5 spot in the order, continued his hot hitting against
By The Numbers:
21—Games in which a Cardinals starter did not give up a home run before RHP Brad Penny permitted two against Philadelphia on May 5.
Quote To Note:
"We're patiently impatient."
—Manager Tony La Russa, waiting for a resolution of INF Felipe Lopez's throwing arm difficulties.
INF Felipe Lopez (strained right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list April 26. He resumed baseball activities May 11, and he might rejoin the Cardinals as soon as May 17.