ST. LOUIS -- One night after one swing proved to be all the Cardinals needed for a win, one swing doomed them to defeat and dampened an otherwise impressive return to the rotation for Jaime Garcia in the Cardinals' 4-0 loss to the Reds at Busch Stadium on Tuesday night.
It wasn't the 91-mph fastball that Joey Votto hit an estimated 418 feet to put the Reds ahead, 3-0, in the sixth inning that left Garcia seething, though.
Rather, in his first start since injuring his groin on June 24, it was an 0-2 slider to opposing pitcher Mike Leake that pushed Garcia's otherwise masterful start off the straight and narrow.
Garcia had thrown just 52 pitches and faced one batter above the minimum through five innings when Leake fell behind in the count to lead off the sixth.
Leake, a .135 hitter, fouled off Garcia's first 0-2 offering and poked the next one through the right side for a base hit to start an inning that culminated with Votto's two-out blast.
"He's a good-hitting pitcher, but also, I think that was the pitch that beat myself down the most," Garcia said. "It was that 0-2 hit that he got. That should never happen, especially 0-2 with a pitcher. I don't care how good he swings the bat."
The frustrating sixth inning largely negated Garcia's willingness to see positives in his return to a big league mound, but manager Mike Matheny took plenty of them from Garcia's outing.
"It's amazing," Matheny said of the fact that Garcia seemed to pick up where he left off before his latest injury-related setback. "That's why we keep talking about how we just have to keep him on the mound. Because when he goes out there, that's a one-hitter through five. Just impressive the way he was going about it -- getting quick outs, getting bad swings, using everything."
The Cardinals have been unable to score in all four of Garcia's losses this year, but it wasn't a lack of run support nagging him as he reflected upon an outing that, by nearly all metrics, was impressive, especially considering that it was his first in the big leagues in over a month.
"I don't even pay attention to that," he said of the zeros lining the Cardinals' half of the scoreboard.
The next question pertained to what was really bothering Garcia. Leake's sixth-inning single.
"At the end of the day, that's part of the game," Garcia said. "But that should never happen. I should never allow that to happen."
David Cobb is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.