Garcia struggles; Cards rally comes up short

Garcia struggles; Cards rally comes up short

Garcia struggles; Cards rally comes up short
HOUSTON -- The Cardinals' woes at Minute Maid Park continued on Tuesday, as the Redbirds were unable to cap a furious ninth-inning rally from five runs down in a 9-8 loss to the Astros before 18,911. The Cardinals fell to 28-33 in Houston since 2005.

St. Louis is also 1-6 on the current road trip and has evened its record at 28-28 for the season.

The Astros took two of three in an earlier series this season at Minute Maid Park and got the upper hand in this one early. Houston scored six runs over the first two innings and cranked out 13 hits for the game off four Cardinals pitchers, including four from leadoff batter Jose Altuve, tying a career high, and homers from Justin Maxwell and Brian Bogusevic.

Houston did it all without the services of slugging first baseman Carlos Lee, who went on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring injury.

St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia (3-4) lasted just two innings. The lefty gave up six runs on five hits, walking two and striking out a pair in his 43-pitch stint. Garcia had skipped his previous start in New York this past weekend due to left elbow discomfort. An MRI showed no reason for long-term concern.

But it was clear that Garcia was not at full strength.

"They gave him some pretty thorough examinations and we felt confident that he was ready to go," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "But he obviously wasn't. His fastball is not quite there. You can tell by his body language.

"He's just not right, and we've got to figure out what it is. I don't have any answers right now, because I don't know."

Garcia said he is equally puzzled, not to mention extremely frustrated. He's still never defeated Houston in his seven career starts (0-5, 8.10 ERA). The Cards are 0-7 all time in Garcia's starts against the Astros.

"I wish I knew what was wrong, I'd fix it," Garcia said. "I'm definitely not in a position where I can go out there and help the team win."

He added that while he didn't feel like he was at full strength going into the game, he felt no pain in the elbow.

"Full strength is when you feel strong and feel really good," he said. "Sometimes you take time off and you get that. But I didn't get it. [But] there's no pain.

"I don't know. I guess I'm going to have to get it looked at and figure it out. I'm struggling right now, and it's tough for me, but at the same time I've got to keep moving forward."

St. Louis first baseman Matt Adams (2-for-4) provided the Cardinals' highlight early on, delivering his second homer of the season, a mammoth three-run shot over the center-field fence just to the left of the 436-foot marker. It was officially measured at 443 feet.

Allen Craig and David Freese, who sparked the third-inning rally with two-out hits, scored in front of Adams to cut Houston's lead to 6-4.

Craig continued to swing a hot bat at Minute Maid Park, going 2-for-5 after entering Tuesday batting .353 with three home runs and nine RBIs in six career games there. The home run and RBI totals are both personal highs for any road stadium.

But the Cardinals' bullpen couldn't hold back Houston's attack. Maikel Cleto, Sam Freeman, Victor Marte and Mitchell Boggs combined for nine strikeouts but also gave up eight hits and three runs over six innings.

Still, Matheny said that, overall, he liked what he saw from his bullpen.

"Guys did a great job, every one of them," Matheny said. "I'm real happy with the way they threw the ball."

The Cardinals collected 12 hits themselves and didn't go down without a fight, making things interesting with four runs in the ninth. Adron Chambers laced a two-run triple, following singles by Adams and catcher Tony Cruz, to cut the Houston lead to 9-6.

"It's what you've got to do," Chambers said of the late comeback attempt. "They jumped out on us today and we had to fight from the first inning on."

Chambers entered the game with Marte as part of a double-switch in the sixth inning. He's been a bright spot in the tough road trip, hitting .385 (5-for-13).

But Astros closer Brett Myers, the fifth Houston pitcher, recorded his 14th save while making starter Lucas Harrell (5-4) a winner. However, not before Rafael Furcal made it a one-run game with a two-run homer down the right-field line to make it a 9-8 game.

"I was warmed up by then," said Myers, who figured to sit this one out with Houston leading 9-4 entering the ninth. "It was easier to locate with my pitches because I threw them all, but I wasn't locating with my fastball tonight at all, just because I didn't have time really to prepare for it.

"It was like, 'Boom, you're in.' It was tough, but you've got to grind through the situations and I was able to do that tonight."

Furcal's fifth homer of the season was one of four St. Louis hits in the ninth, three of which came from the bottom of the order.

"That's part of baseball," Chambers said. "It takes a team effort. Not one guy is going to win or lose a game for us."

Matheny said he likes the fight he sees in this team.

"They just don't quit," he said. "We just keep running out of time. Keep putting ourselves in too big a hole.

"Say what you want about the series in New York and [the] offense, but these guys take at-bats and they don't give up. They don't die in the dugout and they don't quit in the field. That's going to pay off in the long run."

Glenn Sattell is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.