ST. LOUIS -- After a string of three subpar starts, Jaime Garcia looked in ideal form on Thursday as he pitched the Cardinals to a 4-0 victory and series win over the Phillies at Busch Stadium.
Garcia may well have gone the distance had the Cardinals not opted to replace him with a seventh-inning pinch-hitter in an effort to run up their one-run lead. The move worked, too, as a two-out, two-run single by Stephen Piscotty capped a three-run inning.
"We need offense," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of pulling Garcia when he did. "We have an opportunity to get more runs on the board. He got us through seven, and he did a great job of doing that."
It was support Garcia didn't look like he'd even need while limiting the Phillies to two singles over seven innings. He threw 61 of his 82 pitches for strikes.
"He had both sides of the plate, very good command on both sides of the plate," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He did everything you ask a pitcher to do. Throw strikes with all your pitches, change speeds, work fast. He basically had us eating out of his hand."
Supported by Brandon Moss' first-inning homer of Jerad Eickhoff, Garcia retired 11 straight before allowing his first hit. Thursday's performance marked the fifth time in Garcia's career that he has held an opponent to no runs on two or fewer hits in a start of at least seven innings. Two of those outings have come this year.
"I think it felt similar to what I've been doing," Garcia said. "Just today, I was able to get good plays made behind me, and I was able to get calls and make pitches when I needed to make pitches. I just have to continue to build on that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Brandon's bash: Moss' homer was his team-leading seventh and, according to Statcast™, traveled 436 feet as it struck the facade of the second deck beyond right field. The 112-mph exit velocity Moss registered on the blast made it the hardest homer he's hit since Statcast™ started registering those figures.
"I enjoy every home run I hit," Moss said, downplaying the distance. "It's something I don't take for granted. But that one could have skimmed off my bat and gone one row deep and I wouldn't have cared." More >
No no to the no-no:Cameron Rupp's leadoff single in the fifth broke up Garcia's no-hitter bid -- until then, the only other Phillies batter to reach was Freddy Galvis on an error in the first.
"He was painting the corners," Galvis said of Garcia. "He was throwing the sinker today. He was keeping the ball down and doing a good job."
Rally fizzled: The Phillies mustered one serious scoring opportunity against Garcia, and he snuffed it out with a double play that was started and finished by Moss. Taking over at first base after Matt Adams exited with an injury, Moss snared a line drive by Bourjos and then beat Tyler Goeddel back to the base to strand a runner at third. It was the only at-bat of the day the Phillies took against Garcia with a runner in scoring position. More >
No relief: The Phillies' bullpen struggled to pitch Eickhoff out of a jam in the seventh, allowing three runs to score. Elvis Araujo walked two and allowed a run in two-thirds of an inning, and Colton Murray allowed a two-run double to Piscotty. Two of the runs were charged to Eickhoff and the other to Araujo.
"I personally see it as, I need to pitch better," Eickhoff said. "There were three runs there, and all the runs there, the home run was missed location, the walk to [Yadier] Molina -- I've got to be a little more aggressive and not get behind to that guy -- and then the balk putting him in scoring position, so I've got to be stronger personally."
"It's definitely up toward the top [of my personal best]. They're better when they come in the ninth inning. I'm glad I was able to come through there." -- Piscotty, on recording the first out of the ninth inning with a diving catch
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Piscotty's bases-loaded double in the seventh was his 15th hit this year with a runner in scoring position. No one in the Majors has more. His .469 average in such spots ranks fifth among National League hitters. He leads the Cardinals with 20 RBIs.
Cardinals first baseman Adams exited the game after four innings because of a left knee contusion. The Cardinals described the move as precautionary and do not expect Adams to miss much, if any, time. With one hit in two at-bats before departing, Adams improved to 8-for-19 on the homestand. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Phillies:Vince Velasquez (4-1, 1.44 ERA) will open a three-game series at Miami on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Velasquez has won his past two decisions, including throwing six scorelss innings of two-hit baseball against Cleveland in his last start, and he will be making his first career start against the Marlins.
Cardinals: The Cardinals will open a three-game series against division-rival Pittsburgh with a 7:15 p.m. CT game on Friday. Since the start of the 2013 season, the two clubs have split their 60 matchups. Carlos Martinez, who is 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA, draws the start in the series opener.