It’s a relatively small sample size but the Colorado Rockies easily have been the most troublesome opponent for Jaime Garcia. The Cardinals lefthander entered Tuesday night’s game at Busch Stadium with one of the best won-lost career records of any active starter at 55-34 but he was just 0-3 with an 8.76 earned run average in five outings against the Rockies.
Add another loss to that ledger as Garcia, who never quite found his command in his five-inning stint, walked a season-high four hitters and was in trouble nearly every inning in a 3-1 loss to the Rockies before an announced crowd of 41,109 on an unusually frigid, dank May evening.
The outing was in contrast to Garcia’s recent games, the last two of which were seven-inning outings in which he did not give up an earned run. Garcia (3-3) had ranked fourth in the National League with a 0.95 ratio for walks/hits allowed per inning. But he permitted nine runners in just five innings Tuesday.
“Not the best,” said Garcia. “I’ve just got to do a better job next time.
“They’ve got a really good lineup over there and they weren’t swinging at pitches close to the plate. But, again, no excuses.”
The Cardinals’ record against teams with winning records dropped to 6-14. And, yes, the Rockies are a winning team at 20-18, riding a five-game victory streak.
But manager Mike Matheny read nothing into the Rockies’ career success against Garcia.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Matheny said. “When his stuff’s on, he’s going to be successful against just about anybody. You can probably take into account the times in Colorado where. ... (the altitude) definitely affects breaking balls. There are times when it affects the sinker, so that probably has to be put into the equation.”
Garcia, indeed, has given up 20 hits and 13 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings in his two starts at Colorado, accounting for much of the damage the Rockies have done against him.
There was not much damage done by the locals in either direction on Clark Street as the Blues were blanked in their playoff game. The Cardinals outdrew the Blues although not by as much as usual as only 27,153 customers came through the turnstiles at Busch to watch Chad Bettis and three relievers limit the Cardinals to six singles.
Bettis (4-2) no-hit the Cardinals for four innings and gave up five hits and one run over 6 2/3 innings.
“You’ve got to give him some credit,” said Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who was hitless against Bettis but had a single in the ninth.
Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez chased center fielder Jeremy Hazelbaker to the wall in center for the final out of the first on what would be the longest shot of the night.
Matt Carpenter did roughly the same in the home first, with the same result. Center fielder Charlie Blackmon made the catch near the wall. Carpenter would hit three balls with authority with nothing to show for it.
Blackmon singled for the first hit of the game in the third and stole his third base with one out. Trevor Story struck out for a league-leading 54th time in 152 at-bats before Nolan Arenado drove in his 33rd run with a single in front of a sliding Matt Holliday in left. Blackmon scored, marking the first earned run given up by Garcia after 21 1/3 innings, covering four games.
Garcia’s third walk in four innings, a leadoff pass in the fourth to former Cardinal Mark Reynolds, was the fulcrum for two more runs, one driven in on a forceout grounder by .067-hitting Bettis.
The Cardinals got their first hit, an infield single by Hazelbaker, in the fifth, but they lost their first (and only) challenge.
Diaz grounded to shortstop Story, who fired to second baseman LeMahieu for a forceout. Matheny challenged that LeMahieu had taken his left foot off the bag before gloving the throw but the call held, after technology in New York was consulted.
Diaz was safe at first on the play. Kolten Wong, who had two hits and two walks in extending his hitting streak to five games, kept the inning alive by beating out an infield hit as Story, playing well to his left on a shift, had no play as he scurried to his right to track to Wong’s grounder.
“Great at-bats,” said Matheny. “It’s a good game for (Wong).”
Pinch hitter Brandon Moss flied to deep center, with both runners moving up. Carpenter flied to very deep right to end the inning.
“It looked like Carp got that ball,” Matheny said. “But it also looked like Gonzalez got his in the first. This was the first time really all season the ball didn’t carry, like we had hoped and like it has all season.”
Moss said, “(Busch) was playing big tonight, that’s for sure.
Those balls that Carp hit tonight would have been gone on any normal night. Those are gone in a lot of ball parks. It was just one of those nights. You don’t want to hit it in the air.”
The homer-less game was just the second at Busch this year for the Cardinals, who are only 9-11 at home. And the first time there were no extra-base hits at all.
The Cardinals finally strung together consecutive hits in the seventh. Diaz and Wong both singled with two out and Randal Grichuk pinch hit a run-scoring single.
Lefthander Boone Logan, who had held lefthanded hitters to a .133 average, relieved to face the lefthanded-hitting Carpenter, who had been two for three against Logan. Carpenter sent LeMaheiu to his knees for a hard grounder but the Rockies’ infielder, while still on the ground after making a backhanded stop, fired to first to end the inning.
The top five hitters in the Cardinals’ lineup went one for 19 while the bottom four, counting the pitcher’s spot, were five for 14.