Garcia nearly goes distance as Cardinals sink Fish

Garcia nearly goes distance as Cardinals sink Fish

ST. LOUIS -- Despite boasting the Majors' lowest ERA, the Cardinals' rotation had yet to have a starter record an out in the ninth inning coming into Friday's series opener against the Marlins. Starter Jaime Garcia ended that drought with a masterful 8 1/3 innings to pitch the Cardinals to a 3-1 win in front of 42,025 at Busch Stadium.

Garcia, making just his fourth start since suffering a groin injury in a June start against Miami, limited the Marlins to seven singles -- including Ichiro Suzuki's 4,191st professional hit, tying Ty Cobb -- while lowering his ERA to 1.57.

"You go out there with a healthy Jaime and you never know what you could end up watching," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Just watching their good hitters take the kind of at-bats they take against him, you can just see that when we talk about something looking different. It's unlike a lot of pitching they're going to see all season long. That's what makes him special."

Garcia had an opportunity to complete his first shutout since 2011, but after allowing two batters to reach with one out in the ninth, Garcia gave the ball over to closer Trevor Rosenthal. Derek Dietrich scored on Cole Gillespie's single and a bobble by right fielder Jason Heyward before Rosenthal notched his 36th save.

Rosenthal earns save No. 36

Marlins starter Tom Koehler threw seven strong innings, but an RBI bunt single from Matt Carpenter in the fifth and a run-scoring single by Mark Reynolds in the seventh marred his effort. Carpenter later punctuated his night with an eighth-inning homer, his 18th of the year.

Carpenter's solo homer

"It came down to two curveballs that were meant to be in the dirt that caught too much of the plate, and a perfectly executed bunt with two outs," Koehler said.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Element of surprise: With two out and Reynolds on third, Carpenter caught the Marlins by surprise when he laid a bunt down the third-base line. Reynolds scored easily as Carpenter reached first without a throw. It marked the second bunt single Carpenter has tallied in the last two nights. Carpenter later went from small ball to big blast as he homered for the fifth time in his last 10 games.

Carpenter's RBI bunt single

"They weren't shifting or anything, but I knew if I could just get a decent bunt down, I had a chance," Carpenter said. "And I knew at that point in the game nobody was expecting it. Koehler was throwing the ball really well. We hadn't gotten much offense going. I just figured that was our best chance at that point. I just went for it." More >

Koehler's quality start: An injury-depleted rotation has raised the importance of starters going deep into games. Koehler did his part, logging seven innings, allowing just two runs on five hits. Unfortunately for the right-hander, he didn't get any runs of support and lost his fourth straight decision. Koehler paces Miami with 134 1/3 innings.

Koehler's seven strong innings

"You want to go deep," Koehler said. "You want to give your team a chance. But the way Garcia was pitching, it looked like one might be enough. Any time you give up that second run, it makes it tougher on the offense. One run is a lot more attainable sometimes than two. That was a big run they scored in the seventh."

Koehler admitted he was surprised Carpenter bunted to drive in the first run.

"But he's a good player, smart player," the right-hander said. "He's going to look for any chance he can, especially it was a 0-0 game right there in the fifth."

Smooth sailing: Garcia did not allow the Marlins to advance a runner into scoring position until the seventh -- and even then, he wiggled around trouble quite easily. After giving up consecutive one-out singles, Garcia induced two groundouts to preserve his shutout. The only other runner to reach scoring position against him did so in the ninth. Rosenthal helped bail out Garcia, who walked off the field to a standing ovation.

"How could you not hear that?" Garcia said of the sendoff. "Even though I'm a little disappointed with myself after walking that guy, of course I heard the crowd. It was the loudest I've heard it this season when I'm pitching. You appreciate that from them." More >

Ichiro reaches milestone: It may not be an MLB record, but it still is an amazing achievement. Ichiro's opposite-field single in the fifth inning gave him 4,191 professional hits, which matches Cobb. Ichiro has 2,913 hits in the big leagues, and 1,278 hits in nine seasons in Japan. The ball was thrown in as a keepsake for Ichiro, who continues to close in on 3,000 MLB hits.

Ichiro ties Ty Cobb

"He's a special player," Miami manager Dan Jennings said. "He's a special talent. He's carried himself that way. It's great for our young players to see how this guy goes about it every day, how he prepares to go out and play a game every night. He's earned every one of those hits that he's got. It's an honor to be here and be part of it and watch him achieve that." More >

QUOTABLE
"We couldn't string together anything. You've got to tip your cap to Garcia. He pitched a great ballgame, but Tommy matched him pitch for pitch. Seven outstanding innings and [he] battled. He's basically been that guy all year for us." -- Jennings

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With Friday's win, the Cardinals improved to 43-17 at Busch Stadium this season. This marks the first time since 1944 that the club has won at least 43 of its first 60 home games. The only clubs in franchise history to win more were the 1935, '42, '43 and '44 teams.

WHAT'S NEXT
Marlins: Brad Hand, coming off an impressive win at Atlanta, gets the nod in the second of three at Busch Stadium on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. ET. In his last outing, Hand (2-2, 4.29 ERA) gave up one run on two hits in seven innings.

Cardinals: Right-hander John Lackey will start for the Cardinals on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. CT in pursuit of his 12th consecutive quality start. Lackey, who has faced the Marlins just once previously in his career, has a 1.89 ERA at Busch Stadium this season.

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Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.