The way they played the first two matches of the Padres series, it sure seemed like the Cardinals might not win a game all year.
And things didn't seem too promising for the Sunday finale with Jaime Garcia, who was absolutely terrible during spring training, on the hill.
But whatever it was that clicked during Garcia's last Grapefruit League start seems to have stuck. The Cardinals lefty was brilliant in his first start of the season, hurling a complete game shutout against San Diego with four hits and two walks allowed. He racked up an impressive nine strikeouts.
The Cardinals offense didn't do much. But it was enough to avoid what would have been a brutal opening series sweep. They improved to 1-2 on the season.
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In the fifth inning rightfielder Lance Berkman singled and then took second base on a wild pitch. After centerfielder Colby Rasmus grouded out, catcher Yadier Molina singled to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead that stood until the bottom of the eighth.
With closer Ryan Franklin warming in the bullpen and Garcia scheduled to bat second in the bottom of the eighth, it appeared that manager Tony La Russa was going to tell the southpaw starter to hit the showers.
But when Skip Schumaker led off the inning with a single, Garcia was sent to the plate to sacrifice. He couldn't get the job done. But third baseman Daniel Descalso singled Schumaker to third and Ryan Theriot drove him home with a slow grounder through the right side of the infield.
Garcia carved up the Padres in the top of the ninth to nail down the win.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Garcia.
Cardinals Play of the Game: In the seventh inning the Padres threatened, but the Birds turned a key 4-6-3 double play to kill off the threat.
Lowlight: The Cardinals still aren't hitting much but, on this day, it was enough.