Gem from Garcia has Cards tied for WC spot

Gem from Garcia has Cards tied for WC spot

ST. LOUIS -- Before turning their attention to a four-game showdown against the Cubs, the Cardinals found a way to wrap up an uneven homestand on a high note. With a 3-2 victory that showcased Jaime Garcia at his near best, the Cardinals nabbed a series from the Reds on Wednesday and climbed back into a tie with the Marlins for the National League's second Wild Card spot.

Garcia bookended the Cardinals' 3-3 homestand with a pair of sensational starts. Pulled from his last outing three outs short, the left-hander was given the opportunity to secure his fifth career complete game. That leash ran out after Garcia surrendered hits to Joey Votto and Adam Duvall to open the inning. But closer Seung Hwan Oh took over from there and sealed the win on five pitches.

"He was great," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Garcia. "He just kind of built off of what we saw last time out. Boy, whatever we have to do to keep him there because that's impressive to watch."

Garcia hitting stride at perfect time for Cards

Garcia's eight-plus-inning performance goes down as one of his most dominant this season. He served up a fourth-inning home run to Eugenio Suarez, but finished on 85 pitches (60 strikes).

Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani entered with a 1.35 ERA in four appearances against the Cardinals, but he was stung by home runs from Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta. Carpenter also tripled and scored to help build the team's early advantage.

"I just think I got into some bad counts and made bad pitches when I needed to make a good pitch," DeSclafani said. "I felt like I kind of beat myself tonight, obviously not discrediting them at all … but I felt like I didn't execute to the best of my ability at all."

Both Carpenter and Peralta helped Garcia in the field as well, as the Cardinals' infield had a standout night in a game where Garcia tallied 15 ground-ball outs. Carpenter, making his fourth start at first base this season, picked several short-hop throws. Peralta, playing third, and shortstop Greg Garcia each made highlight-worthy plays in the eighth to help Garcia work around a leadoff double.

Garcia's backhand stop

"When you're a pitcher, you love seeing that and it allows you to go right after hitters," Garcia said of the defensive help behind him. "When I'm pitching, my goal is to get quick outs on the ground."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
From the top: Since going hitless in his first nine at-bats off the disabled list, Carpenter has collected five hits, including two on Wednesday, in his last nine at-bats. He opened the bottom half of the first with his 11th career leadoff homer and legged out a triple two innings later. The Cardinals improved to 17-8 in games where Carpenter has tallied at least two hits.

"Carp getting us going right out of the chute, that gives Jaime a little bit of freedom," Matheny said. "He's always been a good spark for our club."

Carpenter's homer to right

Down goes DeSclafani: DeSclafani was handed his first loss of the season after winning his first six decisions since he was activated off the disabled list in mid-June. The Reds have lost his last three outings, although he has only allowed six runs on 12 hits in that span. DeSclafani was the first Cincinnati pitcher since Paul Wilson in 2004 to win six games without a loss over his first 10 starts of a season.

"I feel like I haven't been sharp in the past couple outings," DeSclafani said. "Once again today I was just kind of struggling, just not sharp. I was able to get ahead of some guys and then not put them away or just fall back in the count. I just got behind in the count early and didn't make too many quality pitches."

DeSclafani fans Molina

Milestone moment: Peralta, a late addition to the lineup, pushed the Cardinals' lead to 3-1 with a fourth-inning home run. The solo shot was Peralta's 200th career home run, 44 of which have come with St. Louis. Peralta didn't realize it was a milestone hit until teammate Matt Holliday emerged from the video room to let him know. After the game, the fan who caught Peralta's sixth homer this season exchanged it with the veteran infielder for an autographed ball and photo.

"Two hundred homers, I feel proud to do that," said Peralta, the 23rd Dominican-born player to reach that benchmark. "I've been waiting for that to happen."

Peralta's 200th career homer

Filling Phillips' shoes: Tony Renda started his first career game in place of Brandon Phillips, who sat out with a strained quad. He had pinch-hit in five games since his callup and debut on Aug. 2, but Renda made the most of his first chance in the field. When Holliday hit a ground ball up the middle with two outs in the fifth inning with runners on first and third, Renda made a diving grab to field the ball behind second base. He then got up and got the out at first to keep the St. Louis lead at two runs.

"Tony was shaded up the middle," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "As soon as he dove and he caught that and I realized there was no play at second I said, 'Oh shoot, that's going to lead to a run.' But he fired that perfect throw to first base to just get Holliday. Definitely a highlight moment."

Renda's slick fileding

QUOTABLE
"This is what we know we're capable of. We just have to find a way to let it show up more. We just want to go out and play well and do what we can to get into the postseason. However that looks, we'll take it." -- Carpenter

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Oh's save was his 10th of the season, making this the ninth time in franchise history that the Cardinals have had a pair of pitchers with double-digit saves. Trevor Rosenthal recorded 14 before the closer's job was handed over to Oh. The last time it happened was in 2008 when Ryan Franklin saved 17 games and Jason Isringhausen saved 12.

Oh closes the game

UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton grounded to Peralta at third with one out in the third inning. Peralta threw to second baseman Kolten Wong for the forceout and Hamilton beat the throw at first. Cincinnati challenged the ruling that DeSclafani was out at second because the Reds thought Wong's foot never touched the base. After review, it was ruled that the call stands.

WHAT'S NEXT
Reds: Cincinnati has an off-day Thursday before starting a three-game set with the Brewers at 8:10 p.m. ET on Friday. Homer Bailey will take the mound for the Reds in his third start since returning from Tommy John surgery. He holds a 4.80 ERA in 10 career starts at Miller Park.

Cardinals: Carlos Martinez will take the mound when the Cards open a four-game series against the first-place Cubs on Thursday at Wrigley Field. Martinez allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) to the Braves during his last start. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Nick Krueger is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis and covered the Reds on Wednesday.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.