ANAHEIM -- Jaime Garcia's stellar performance and a four-run second inning was all the Cardinals would need Wednesday night, as they cruised to a 5-2 win and a series victory over the Angels in Southern California.
Garcia (3-2, 2.58 ERA) continued his hot streak, holding the Angels to two unearned runs and scattering four hits while striking out eight in seven innings.
"When he's healthy, it looks like what we just saw," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Garcia, who was making his first career start against the Angels. "He's been pretty impressive all year. We talk about the starter giving us a chance, and that's certainly something that he's doing."
Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker, who was recalled from Triple-A earlier Wednesday, allowed the first five batters to reach in the second inning, allowing runs to score on two RBI singles and two sacrifice flies. St. Louis added an insurance run in the seventh inning on Stephen Piscotty's RBI single to right field. The Cardinals didn't hit Shoemaker particularly hard but managed to find holes and get on base to make him pay.
"It's frustrating after that second, third run score, especially after some ground-ball hits," Shoemaker said. "That's going to happen in this game, but it's just even more frustrating in that situation. Two feet, three feet, four feet and that's a double-play ball. That's sometimes the name of the game."
The Cardinals sit at 18-16 and remain a half-game behind the Pirates for second place in the National League Central. The Angels have lost five in a row on this six-game homestand, dropping their record to 13-20 and falling seven games below .500 for the first time since Sept. 13, 2013.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Streak snapped: The Angels were held hitless by Garcia for 3 2/3 innings, and might have been for quite a while longer had Matt Carpenter cleanly picked an Albert Pujols chopper in the fourth. Instead, Pujols reached on an error, and C.J. Cron, on Garcia's next pitch, snapped the left-hander's scoreless streak at 16 innings with his second home run of the season.
"That was a mistake," Garcia said of the four-seam fastball to Cron. "He's a good hitter. It was over the middle of the plate, and he put a good swing on it. It was one of those where you second-guess yourself. You learn from it."
Short-lived return: Shoemaker struggled in his return, lasting just four-plus innings and giving up four earned runs to put his season ERA at 9.12. The second inning set the tone, and the Angels have had just one starting pitcher log six innings or more in a start since April 26. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said much of his team's issues can be linked to the starters' inability to work deep in games.
"The thing for the last couple weeks has really been trying to get our rotation in order," he said. "That has to happen."
Striking late: The Cardinals continue to boast the Majors' best late-game offense, having scored 75 runs in the seventh inning or later this season. The latest was driven by Piscotty, whose two-out single in the seventh padded the lead. Piscotty's 17 hits with runners in scoring position are a Major League high, as are the Cardinals' 70 RBIs in two-out situations.
"With the base open, I figured he might try to nibble a little bit," Piscotty said of his approach after falling behind in the count, 1-2. "At the same time, it's [Matt Holliday] up behind me, so I know they probably don't want to walk me."
Struggles continue: The Angels' offense continued to sputter. Cron's two-run shot to the rock formation in center field was the team's first hit of the game and its second extra-base hit since May 6. The Angels had a pair of runners in scoring position and the potential tying run at the plate with one out in the seventh, but were held scoreless after a pair of strikeouts from Johnny Giavotella and Shane Robinson. Scioscia said Giavotella and Robinson "expanded" too much while representing the tying run, allowing Garcia to take advantage.
"We're not bunching hits together, and we're not getting guys on base early in innings," Scioscia said. "All that is stuff that we need to get going, and we haven't had it when we need to."
"I feel good with where I am. Last night, I hit the ball hard three times. Today, I squeezed a base hit in the hole. But besides that, I feel like I'm swinging the bat well. It's just one of those things, dude. When the team and everybody gets in a funk, you can't put things together. It's just crazy." -- Pujols, whose batting average is down to .185
"Shane Robinson was one of my best friends. He's like my brother. And then, obviously, Albert, he's one of the best players of all time. He was a great inspiration to me, and I learned a lot from him coming up. Brendan Ryan was my shortstop for a while and is a good friend of mine. It's different, but when it's time to execute that pitch, it doesn't matter who you're facing." -- Garcia, of facing a lineup that included three former teammates
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Angels reliever Mike Morin continued his hot streak with two perfect innings. He has thrown 10 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, retiring 31 of 35 batters faced during that stretch to lower his season ERA to 1.84. The Angels bullpen gave up just one run in five innings and improved on its recent strong stretch, entering Wednesday with a 2.01 ERA since April 20.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Cardinals used their challenge in the fourth inning and were successful in having Mike Trout's infield single overturned for the second out of the inning. A 54-second review showed that Kolten Wong's throw to first baseman Matt Adams just beat Trout to the bag. The call proved crucial, too, as Cron's home run came two batters later.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: The series against the Angels wraps up Thursday, as Adam Wainwright takes the mound a day earlier than initially scheduled. Wainwright, who has won his last two decisions, was bumped up in the rotation to allow Carlos Martinez additional recovery time. First pitch is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. CT.
Angels: Right-hander Jered Weaver heads to the bump looking to help the Angels avoid a second consecutive sweep at home. Weaver, who is 3-1 with a 4.72 ERA this season, has given up two runs or fewer in three of his six starts. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT.