ST. LOUIS -- Just as the Cardinals continue their search for consistency, Jaime Garcia has spent the season working to get himself back to his best. Mechanical issues have plagued him, as have defensive lapses behind him.
But the unevenness of his performances over the first four months has given way to a pair of promising starts in August. On the heels of twirling eight shutout innings on Friday, Garcia covered another eight in dominant fashion on Wednesday to lift the Cardinals to a 3-2 victory over the Reds.
"I think when you see him do what he did today, it just keeps reminding you how special it can be when it's right," manager Mike Matheny said. "We will continue to challenge him to do what he's been doing in between starts to allow himself to have the kind of outing he's had these last two starts."
Disappointed not to have an opportunity to close what he started last Friday, Garcia had control over the finish this time. After breezing through eight innings on 78 pitches, he was sent back out for the ninth. But his quest for a fifth career complete game was halted when, after consecutive hits by Joey Votto and Adam Duvall, Matheny summoned closer Seung Hwan Oh. It was about the only task Garcia was not able to complete in an otherwise standout performance.
"I respected Mike for letting me go back out in the ninth, and I felt good," Garcia said. "I didn't many mistakes all night, but I made mistakes there."
Those hits were the exceptions on a night when Garcia relied heavily upon the defense behind him. He induced 15 ground-ball outs, including six to shortstop Greg Garcia and nine to third baseman Jhonny Peralta, a late lineup addition.
The key is for Garcia to find a way to replicate what he's done these last two times out more regularly. But perhaps he's in better position to do so now than at any other point this year.
Acknowledging that he's had to condition himself to feeling healthy again, Garcia found himself fighting through his mechanics for much of the first half of the season. So often sidelined by injury in his career, Garcia wasn't used to pitching uncompromised.
To fix his mechanics, he turned to video.
"I'm not a big video guy, but sometimes it's good," Garcia said. "I spent time with myself, really feeling things, [and figuring out] what was it that I needed to make changes on. … When you're healthy, you just have to find your rhythm. I had to get rid of some bad habits that I had created. I was getting away from who I am."
The next challenge for Garcia will be in handling the late-season workload. At 137 1/3 innings, he's already surpassed his regular-season innings total for every year since 2011.
"That's why I work extremely hard in the offseason and during the season," Garcia said. "It's a grind. I'm going to continue to do whatever it takes to continue to go out there and do the same thing I did today."
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.