Tidy 84-pitch outing for Garcia

2014-05-30T00:00:00Z 2014-06-08T06:50:06Z Tidy 84-pitch outing for GarciaBy Joe Trezza 314-340-8274

Don’t waste your time looking for a strikeout-to-walk-ratio if you’re analyzing Jaime Garcia’s stats over his first three starts of the season. You won’t find one.

It doesn’t exist.

Garcia wasn’t dominant Thursday night, but once again, his control was. He struck out seven batters without walking one, and now hasn’t allowed a walk in 19.2 innings this season.

You need at least one to have a ratio. So far, Garcia and his surgically-repaired shoulder haven’t given opposing hitters a sniff at a free pass.

Losing the mound for a full year hasn’t affected the way he finds the zone.

“Extremely efficient,” manager Mike Matheny said Thursday. “He did a good job.”

This is three times out now for the repaired lefty. He’s won once, lost once and now been stuck with a no-decision after the bullpen spoiled a 6-5 loss to San Francisco.

The outcome Thursday left a bad taste in the Cardinals’ mouths, but Garcia’s performance against the National League’s top team assured that he has successfully reclaimed the rotation spot his injury left open last season, the one Joe Kelly’s opened this year.

Garcia surrendered just five hits. Although two left the yard, those home runs are undoubtably a result of being around the plate so much, which allowed Garcia to work quickly, last deep into the game and kept his fielders sharp.

There are two edges to this sword, and the sharper one didn’t kill Garcia on Thursday, even if it did stab him a few times.

“He has good command of the strike zone,” Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig said. “When he’s feeling good out there, we’re really confident.”

Garcia needed just 84 pitches to get through seven innings, 59 of them going for strikes. Garcia left with a lead and his final line was good enough to get a win on most nights.

Although that depends on who you ask.

“I thought he was really good tonight,” said Craig, who homered and drove in another run with a double. “I thought he worked quick and threw a lot of strikes. He did a good job tonight.”

But Garcia was less enthused, choosing to focus on just one of the line score’s many boxes.

“We lost the ballgame,” he said. “I made some mistakes and I feel like I didn’t do my job.”

Garcia twice squandered one-run leads, once in the second inning and again in the sixth, both courtesy of solo home runs. Michael Morse erased the Cardinals’ early 1-0 lead by tagging Garcia’s second pitch of the second over the wall in left center. Gregor Blanco drove in another run with a single, but Garcia silenced San Francisco until Pablo Sandoval launched a solo home run in the sixth.

But as fast as Morse and Sandoval’s shots left the yard, Garcia was making just as quick work of the rest of the Giants’ lineup.

He retired 11 of 12 before offering Sandoval a 2-0 changeup with two outs in the sixth, a pitch the Panda liked and promptly devoured.

Garcia went right back to work.

When Matheny lifted Garcia in favor of Carlos Martinez to start the eighth, Garcia had retired five straight since the Sandoval homer.

“It wasn’t his efficiency that took him from the game,” Matheny said. “It was an opportunity to get our best arms out there at that time.”

Garcia hasn’t been the best arm in what is again an excellent Cardinals rotation. But he has been the best — in a small sample — at making sure his opponents earn it.

A regression to the mean is imminent — over his career Garcia has recorded 2.82 strikeouts for every walk — but while it lasts, Garcia’s streak continues to impress — probably everyone but him.

“I think about not walking people,” Garcia said. “You want to keep that (ratio) but I don’t think about those things. The main thing is being able to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win.”

Joe Trezza is a sports intern at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at JoeTrezz" @JoeTrezz

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