- 134 wins
- 118 wins
Garcia, in fact, endured the worst start of his young Major League career, taking the defeat as the Cards fell to the Royals, 10-3, at Kauffman Stadium. The rookie left-hander retired all of six batters, allowing five runs on four hits and two walks. From the beginning, he didn't look right to manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan, and he never got right. So the hook was quick with Garcia, who ended up throwing 45 pitches.
The game was hardly all on Garcia, as the Cardinals' bullpen had some rocky moments and the offense missed two golden chances to jump on Royals starter Bruce Chen. In a sense, though, nearly every game is on the starter for this team. St. Louis is now 10-23 when its starting pitcher allows three or more runs.
Garcia reached that point through eight batters.
"It's just one of those days," Garcia said. "It's going to happen. That's part of the game. You've got to find a way to go out there and keep battling. Find a way to keep it working. Your stuff isn't going to be there every day. So you've got to find a way to get it done, find a way to keep going and find a way to keep the team in the game."
The loss kept the Cardinals from regaining first place in the National League Central. Cincinnati lost, so the Reds' margin remains at one-half game over the Redbirds atop the division.
When Garcia is right, he pitches by the fundamentals. He gets ahead by throwing strikes with his fastball, then he finishes hitters off with his breaking pitches. On Sunday, he scarcely ever got ahead, and he couldn't induce swings-and-misses, either.
Of the 18 batters to face Garcia, 12 took a first-pitch ball. Not once did a Royals hitter swing and miss at one of Garcia's pitches. If you can't get ahead, and you can't get hitters to chase pitches that are out of the zone, you're going to have a bad day.
"On video it looked like he had a pretty good changeup. I think his stuff is definitely there," said the Royals' Willie Bloomquist. "It just seemed like he fell behind a lot of hitters and he had to come down the middle of the plate and guys got him a little bit."
Even in a 1-2-3 first inning, Garcia looked somewhat shaky to his manager. He seemed to find something early in the second, but with two outs he faltered. He issued a pair of walks, then served up a home run to Wilson Betemit that made it 3-0. He got out of the second without further damage, but three singles opened the third inning and chased him from the game.
"'Dunc' came out and said he just didn't warm up well, so there was no way we were going to push him," La Russa said. "In the first inning, you could see it. The second inning, first couple hitters, I thought he threw the ball better. Then he walked the two, and I said this is not a good day to have him reach too deep."
Still, it could have been a different game but for two missed chances early. St. Louis loaded the bases before Chen got the game's first out, but a sacrifice fly from Matt Holliday was all the Redbirds could manage in the first. In the second, Albert Pujols drilled a fly ball to center field with two men on, but it died harmlessly and the Cards stranded two more runners.
"I hit it good," Pujols said, "but I knew as soon as I hit it off my bat it wasn't going to carry that much. ... I put a good swing. As soon as I hit that one, I knew it was too high to get out. He made a good pitch down and away and I went with it. I wish it would have gone out, but it didn't."
After that, the Cardinals got nothing until the game was out of reach. Pujols and Colby Rasmus hit solo homers of little consequence for the visitors and a six-game Interleague road trip came to an end with a 3-3 mark. The Cards finished Interleague Play with a 9-6 record.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.