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Cards can’t rally after Garcia’s rare off night

September 9, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — As dominant as Jaime Garcia had been lately, the Cardinals’ prospects of winning the series against the Brewers certainly looked good heading into the finale.

Add his 2-1 record with a 1.08 ERA against the Brewers this season with just three earned runs allowed on 20 hits and it would seem everything was in place for St. Louis to head out of town on a winning note as they looked to stay in the National League playoff hunt.

Instead, Garcia delivered the worst starting performance of his career, as the Cardinals lost, 8-1, on Wednesday for a tough road series loss after taking the series opener on Monday.

With their lineup, the Brewers were bound to rough up Garcia eventually. But with the way the rookie left-hander had shut them down in four previous starts, it would have been hard to predict they’d hand him his worst outing of the season.

“Obviously, they have a great lineup and good team,” Garcia said. “It was just one of those days that I tried to do too much.

“It was just me not having confidence tonight and being lost out there.”

Entering the game, the Brewers had scored just seven runs — three earned — on 20 hits in 25 innings against Garcia with 22 strikeouts against 10 walks. They doubled their run total on Wednesday, putting up seven runs on seven hits in just four innings.

“Tonight might have been the result of being more aggressive,” said left fielder Ryan Braun, who drove in four of the Brewers’ eight runs. “When you’re aggressive and putting pressure on the other team, it seems to be advantageous.

“He didn’t make too many mistakes, but the ones he did make, we were able to take advantage of.”

A couple of those mistakes — two walks — played integral roles in the Brewers’ big innings.

With one out in the third inning, Garcia walked Rickie Weeks, who stole second base. One strikeout later, Garcia surrendered three straight hits, an RBI single by Ryan Braun, a Prince Fielder ground-rule double and a two-run single by Casey McGehee.

An inning later, it was much the same story.

After shortstop Alcides Escobar led off with a single, Weeks walked again, with two outs this time, to spark the Brewers. Right fielder Corey Hart followed with a single, scoring Escobar, and Braun blasted a three-run homer just over the wall in center field.

“That was completely, 100 percent my fault,” Garcia said of the home run. “[Pitching coach Dave] Duncan went out there and told me we need to do something with sinkers and I threw a changeup.

“That happens when you try to do something else.”

Garcia’s line marked a career-worst outing for the rookie. Garcia had surrendered as many as eight runs in a game on Aug. 3, but only four were earned. His previous high in earned runs allowed was five.

“I think he was just in the middle of the plate,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “He had good stuff through a lot of it, but if you look at the pitches that they hurt him on for runs, he just got the ball in the middle.

“That’s something he hasn’t done very often. It was one of those nights.”

The disappointing outing by Garcia only added to what has been a rough start to a crucial road trip for the Cardinals.

With the Reds losing to the Rockies on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Cardinals could potentially have gained two games in the division race with wins. Instead, they remain six games behind Cincinnati in the NL Central with 25 to play.

All eight of the Brewers’ runs on Wednesday and 16 of their 18 runs in the series scored with two outs. For Garcia, shutting down opposing hitters with two outs had been a strength before Wednesday’s rough outing.

“That’s been one of his real keys, he’s been really good putting hitters away,” La Russa said. “Mistakes with men in scoring position, you’ll get burnt.”

Garcia certainly deserved some blame for Wednesday’s loss, but his counterpart kept the Cardinals’ offense quiet for the second straight night. Left-hander Chris Capuano tossed seven strong innings, giving up just one run on four hits while not allowing a walk. Capuano (3-3) also struck out two batters.

The Cardinals’ only run on the night came from Albert Pujols, who went 2-for-3 with a solo homer and a double. Colby Rasmus and rookie Matt Pagnozzi were the only other Cardinals to reach safely against Capuano, with Pagnozzi picking up his first career hit.

It was yet another poor offensive night for the Cardinals against a soft-tossing lefty, which is starting to become a troubling theme.

“I think there’s something there,” La Russa said. “We’ve got better hitters against left-handed pitching than we’ve done here in the last couple weeks. Prior to this, we were getting our wins against left-handers, but we’re getting shut down pretty regularly now, so we’ve got to do something about it.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Weeks finding ways to get on base

July 7, 2010 Comments off

MILWAUKEE — Rickie Weeks may not be your prototypical leadoff hitter, but at least one statistic shows that he’s doing what a leadoff hitter should do, and that’s getting on base.

Weeks entered Wednesday hitting .270 on the season and had an on-base percentage of .369, nearly 70 points behind Justin Morneau, who leads the Majors. But Weeks was only four behind Morneau in total times on base, another category led by the Twins first baseman.

Out of a Major League-leading 391 plate appearances, Weeks had been on base 144 times, compared to 148 times for Morneau and Albert Pujols and 145 times for Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder.

Even more impressive is the fact that Weeks has done it without the benefit of the walks drawn by the three sluggers. Pujols led the league with 56, while Fielder was three behind him at 53 and Morneau was seventh with 49.

Weeks has just 39 walks, though his 15 times hit by pitch lead the Majors.

“He’s a unique leadoff hitter,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said. “He’s got the leadoff home runs, and he still gets on base.”

Weeks, along with right fielder Corey Hart, provide as much power out of the top two spots in the lineup as you’ll find in the Majors.

With 14 home runs and 50 RBIs, Weeks leads the Majors in both categories among leadoff hitters. Hart, who was named Sunday to his second All-Star Game, leads the Majors in home runs (16) and RBIs (49) since May 15.

“I don’t know if we would be 1-2 in most lineups, but we are in this lineup,” Hart said last month following a game in which he and Weeks combined to go 6-for-9 with two runs and three RBIs. “We try to get on base for the guys behind us. It’s nice to drive in runs as well, but I think our goal is to get on as much as we can for Prince and [Ryan Braun].”

Brewers Beat 4/10

April 13, 2010 Comments off