St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) – St. Louis’ Jaime Garcia had the best game of his already impressive rookie campaign, tossing a three-hit shutout of the Giants en route to a 9-0 victory in the rubber match of a three-game series between the National League playoff hopefuls.
Garcia (11-6), who had never pitched into the eighth inning in any of his 23 previous starts this year, needed just 89 pitches to go the distance and faced one over the minimum 27 hitters. The 24-year-old lefty finished with six strikeouts and no walks.
Allen Craig homered and drove in three runs to highlight an offense that recorded 15 hits. Jon Jay went 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI for the Cardinals, who had lost five straight before winning the final two games in this set.
St. Louis is now within three games of the NL Central-leading Reds, while the Giants have fallen six games behind the Padres in the West Division race as a result of a 3-6 stretch.
Barry Zito (8-8) had his shortest outing of the year, lasting only 3 2/3 innings after surrendering five runs on seven hits to take the loss.
The Cardinals pushed across three runs in the third, with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday recording back-to-back singles to plate Brendan Ryan and Jay, respectively. Pujols advanced to third on Holliday’s hit and then raced home on Felipe Lopez’s sacrifice fly to center.
Craig’s second home run of the season followed Yadier Molina’s leadoff single in the fourth to make it 5-0, and the hosts got three more off the Giants bullpen an inning later.
Guillermo Mota gave up run-scoring hits to Molina and Ryan before leaving with runners on the corners and two outs. Jay then greeted Javier Lopez with a base hit to center to drive in Garcia, who singled earlier in the frame.
Garcia faced the minimum through eight after erasing a pair of Pat Burrell singles with double-play balls off the bat of Jose Guillen in the second and fifth innings. He got a standing ovation from the Busch Stadium crowd when he came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth after Craig’s bloop RBI single.
The hurler shook off Nate Schierholtz’s two-out base hit in the ninth by getting Aaron Rowand to bounce into a game-ending fielder’s choice.
Garcia lowered his home earned-run average to 1.55 (12 starts) and came into the game tops amongst NL rookies in wins (10) and second in strikeouts (105), winning percentage (.625) and ERA (2.58). His pitch count was the lowest total for a Cardinals complete game since Bob Tewksbury needed 86 in a 5-1 win over the Padres on May 30, 1992. The shutout was the first by a Cardinals rookie since Bud Smith no-hit San Diego on September 3, 2001…Zito has gone 0-4 in seven starts since throwing eight shutout innings against the Mets in a 1-0 win on July 16…The Giants had not lost a series of three or more games to the Cardinals since May 22-24, 2006…San Francisco returns home for a nine- game homestand starting with Cincinnati on Monday, the same day St. Louis heads to Pittsburgh to open a three-game set.