The Comeback Kid, Jaime Garcia, is back on top of the mountain.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ 29-year-old left-hander with an extended history of medical problems will take the mound in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs at 4:38 p.m. Saturday at Busch Stadium.
Through everything he’s battled, from Tommy John surgery to a shoulder operation and another procedure for thoracic outlet syndrome, Garcia has leaned on his faith.
“I’ve dealt with all this stuff for quite some time,” Garcia said. “What I can say is that it’s something that I’m even thankful for, because if it wasn’t because of all the struggles and all of the downs in my career, I wouldn’t be where I’m at in this point of my career – spiritually, physically and mentally. I feel like we learn more form our downs than our ups.
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“There are definitely times where you’re struggling. But ... my faith in Christ has allowed me to basically not give up. There is really no giving up.”
If it wasn’t because of all the struggles and all of the downs in my career, I wouldn’t be where I’m at in this point of my career.
Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia
Garcia (10-6, 2.43 ERA) has been rock-solid since his May 21 debut that followed a shoulder issue in spring training. He has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 17 of his 20 starts, and he’s 5-2 with a 1.70 ERA in 10 assignments at home.
Garcia did not pitch against the Cubs this season, a factor that could work to his advantage when he opposes 25-year-old Kyle Hendricks (8-7, 3.95 ERA).
“I’ve watched all the games,” Garcia said. “I’ve been in the dugout and watched their lineup. They are a very talented lineup and have done a really great job the whole year. But we’re going to to go about it the same way as we would face anybody else.”
Garcia also will benefit from having Yadier Molina behind the plate. Molina was placed on the roster Thursday and started Game 1 on Friday.
“I’m not taking anything away from Tony Cruz. He’s done an unbelievable job for us,” Garcia said of the Cardinals’ backup catcher who played well when Molina was out with a partially torn ligament in his left thumb. “He’s a guy that’s been around and, most important, he’s learned from the best – one of the best of all times.
“Yadi is one of the best catchers in the game right now. He’s going to go down as one of the best of all time, so any time you can have him in the lineup and behind the plate ... we’re definitely really fortunate and excited to have him in that lineup.”
Garcia throws a sinker and a changeup that wasn’t even part of his repertoire before his Tommy John surgery in 2008.
“Now, those two pitches are big for me,” Garcia said. “It’s always about being willing to make changes for good and reinventing yourself. The sinker and changeup are my strength right now. They’re things I didn’t have. I’m going to continue to do the same thing and always be willing to reinvent and find new things that make my game better.”
The noise level at Busch Stadium is expected to reach epic levels during the division series, a factor all the more obvious considering it’s the Cardinals and Cubs squaring off.
“The louder, the better, I believe, and I hear the same thing from our players,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “They just want an exciting atmosphere, and you just get caught up in it. You get caught up in the buzz of a regular-season game a lot of times with the Cubs. They have a lot of people that show up here. We send a lot of fans up north to Chicago, and it just creates a different feel. And the guys, I believe both sides thrive on it.”
The louder, the better, I believe, and I hear the same thing from our players.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny
Matheny said a quiet crowd never is a good thing.
“The worst thing is when the place is empty and you can hear everything everybody is saying. That’s the worst atmosphere,” Matheny said. “It has a ‘dead’ vibe to it.”