ST. LOUIS -- Jaime Garcia snapped a string of short starts from the Cardinals' rotation with a performance that registered as among the most dominant by a St. Louis starter this season. Garcia stymied the Braves over eight scoreless innings and drove in the game's only run as the Cardinals opened a six-game homestand with a 1-0 victory at Busch Stadium on Friday.
In doing so, Garcia became the first Cardinals pitcher since Harvey Haddix on July 17, 1955, to drive in the only run of a 1-0 win.
Garcia, who struggled pitching on short rest in his previous outing, rolled through an Atlanta offense that ranks last in runs scored. He notched his fourth career double-digit strikeout performance, finishing with 11. Freddie Freeman struck out four times -- three times against Garcia -- and Jeff Francoeur struck out three times. He completed eight innings on 89 pitches and retired the final 11 batters he faced.
"We talk about, often, when he is right and everything is coming out of his hand as it should how impressive it is and how dominating he can be," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "That's what he had tonight."
The veteran left-hander provided himself with all the necessary support, too, by helping the Cardinals take advantage of one of the five free passes issued by Braves starter Joel De La Cruz. De La Cruz walked Matt Holliday to open the second and extended the inning with a walk to Jeremy Hazelbaker. Garcia lined a single to right to drive in Holliday -- one of only two hits the Cardinals mustered.
The only serious predicament Garcia faced came in the fourth, and he wiggled out of that jam with relative ease.
"We had first and third and nobody out and we had the right guys up, too, and he did a great job," Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. "I guess [he was] keeping the ball offspeed enough and it almost seemed like he had different breaking balls. He was keeping the ball away from the fat part of the bat, that's for sure."
The win keeps the Cardinals tied with the Marlins for the National League's second Wild Card. The Cardinals improved to 4-0 against the Braves this season and 15-17 in one-run games. The Braves fell to 12-16 in games decided by one run and have been shut out 11 times this season.
"A lot of good things," Snitker said. "It's just sometimes somebody else has a lot to do with the fact that you don't score any runs."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Escape act: In the fourth, Garcia escaped his only jam of the night by striking out a pair of hitters who have long given him fits. Freeman came up with runners on the corners and no outs and took a called strike three. Garcia followed with a strikeout of Matt Kemp. The two had combined to go 9-for-24 against him previously. A groundout by Adonis Garcia then closed the inning for Garcia, who kept the Braves hitless in five chances with a runner in scoring position on the night.
"The way he pitched out of that, he pitched like he knew it was going to be that kind of game," Matheny said. "He really did bear down in a big situation with the best part of their lineup there. Those are very good hitters in those situations who typically get the job done. That just shows you what kind of movement [Garcia] had." More >
Right off the bat:Ender Inciarte singled to lead off the game to extend his hitting streak to 16 games, tied for the longest current streak in the Majors. He has hit safely in 22 of 23 games since July 8, and is now two games shy of his career-best 18-game hitting streak, which he recorded in 2014.
"He's swinging that bat and just continues [to]," Snitker said. "Great at-bat right there. Two strikes covering the plate, expanding the zone a little bit. Who knows, that could have been a double down the line."
Self help: Garcia's run-scoring single gave Cardinals pitchers 19 RBIs on the season, nine more than the rotation had in all of 2015. Only two clubs -- the Giants and Cubs -- have gotten better RBI production from their pitchers. Garcia has now driven in four on the season, equaling his RBI total from 2012-15.
"Every time I go up to the plate with guys on, whether it's trying to advance a runner with a bunt or trying to get a hit, I prioritize it just like pitching," Garcia said. "I'm not a good hitter, but I try to do my best to put a good swing on the ball and sometimes good stuff happens like tonight."
Francoeur fires home: De La Cruz walked two before he was pulled and Jose Ramirez took his place with one out the sixth. He loaded the bases with a walk to Yadier Molina, but got out of the jam when Jedd Gyorko flied out to right field to Francoeur, who threw home to nab Brandon Moss at the plate. It was Francoeur's 133rd outfield assist in his career, which leads the Majors since his debut in 2005. He was surprised when Moss decided to tag up.
"There were two outs, and you take a chance sometimes with two outs," Francoeur said. "With no outs, no, but when there is one out and you've got a chance there? Why not? I'm glad he did."
WHAT'S NEXT Braves: The Braves will meet the Cardinals again on Saturday in the second of three with first pitch scheduled for 7:15 p.m. ET. Atlanta will try to improve upon its 6-9-3 record in road series this season as Inciarte looks to extend his hitting streak to 17 games.
Cardinals:Carlos Martinez will try to pick up his 11th win on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. CT, when he starts against the Braves for the third time in his career. Martinez threw eight shutout innings in his only previous home start against Atlanta in July 2015.