St. Louis Cardinals

Garcia blasts first big-league homer in Cardinals’ comeback win

The Cardinals' Greg Garcia is congratulated by teammate Kolten Wong after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning Friday against the Cubs at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals won 2-1 in 10 innings.
The Cardinals' Greg Garcia is congratulated by teammate Kolten Wong after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning Friday against the Cubs at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals won 2-1 in 10 innings. Associated Press

St. Louis Cardinals rookie infielder Greg Garcia acknowledged he might have allowed his emotions to get the better of him Friday.

But when a player hits his first major-league home run in a come-from-behind win against a longtime rival, perhaps he can be excused.

Garcia, pinch-hitting in the eighth inning, hit a game-tying home run against Pedro Strop and the Cardinals went on for a 3-2 victory in 10 innings over the Chicago Cubs.

Garcia raised his right arm and pointed his index finger to the sky as his 408-foot drive on a 3-1 fastball landed in the first row of the bleachers in the deepest part of left-center.

“It’s indescribable,” Garcia said of the sensation. “You can’t recreate that feeling anywhere else in this world. It’s something that you dream about as a kid. To do it in front of these fans ... I’ve never heard anything go so loud in my entire life.

“I was telling the guys, I think I let the emotions get the best of me. I put the hand up in the air and things like that. But it was just pure emotion. It was everything that I had. It was a big spot for us. It was a good time to get my first one.”

Waiting for Garcia at the plate was former Hawaii teammate Kolten Wong.

“I was pretty happy that I was on deck to be able to celebrate with him,” Wong said. “This was awesome. It was definitely special, (for) both of us. I was so excited I got to be there and see him do it.”

The capacity crowd of 45,558 also was running on emotion as it remained on its feet until Garcia, encouraged by manager Mike Matheny, emerged from his first curtain call – at any level.

“He said, ‘Hurry up and get out there,’” Garcia said of Matheny. “I was like, ‘All right, let’s do this.’ That’s what’s so special about St. Louis fans, just the reception they give you. They’re so behind you in every way. It was really special to do it in front of them.

“Yadi (Molina) slammed my head around. I didn’t care. I couldn’t feel anything by that time anyway. It was all good.”

Matheny said Garcia’s “reaction was the best.”

“I didn’t necessarily expect the ball to be leaving center field when he went up there for that at-bat,” Matheny said. “What a great surprise. ... That’s a special day. The fans obviously appreciated where we were in the game and the fact that it was the kid’s first home run –and in such a big situation.”

With the Cardinals trailing 2-1, Garcia was just hoping to get on base. But when the count got to 3-1, he sat on a fastball and hoped it was in a location to drive.

“When I hit it, I knew I hit it good,” Garcia said. “But I haven’t played here enough to know, ‘Hey, it’s gone.’ I was running hard. I think when the ball got out, I was at second base already. I was just trying to get on base for the team. ... I’m not a power hitter by any means.”

Garcia, a left-handed hitter, had not homered in 214 at-bats this season at Class AAA Memphis, where he had batted .313 with a .405 on-base percentage in 61 games.

Garcia said he wasn’t sure whether his grandfather, Dave Garcia Sr., saw the home run live or whether he caught it on replays. Dave Garcia Sr. was born and raised in East St. Louis.

“I’m sure he’s watched it by now and I’m sure it made him smile a little bit. I’m sure it was special for him,” Greg Garcia said. “His old saying was, ‘Don’t let a fastball strike hit the catcher’s glove.’ It was a fastball strike and I didn’t let it hit the catcher’s glove, so it was something pretty cool. It was a pretty cool moment.”

The fan who retrieved the memento gave it to Garcia for an autographed ball.

“I really appreciate him doing that. It means a lot to me,” said Garcia, who planned to give the ball to his dad, Dave Jr. “I’ll let him do whatever he wants with it.”

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 618-239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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