"What a performance," said manager Tony La Russa. "It shows you there's no justice when he's the losing pitcher. He should have gotten a no-decision at worst. That was really good."
Starting pitching has been a major issue for the Cards throughout June. The club placed Mark Mulder on the disabled list on Thursday after a lengthy slump, and Sidney Ponson had been bumped to the bullpen before the move with Mulder. It was no small feat to get such a brilliant start. It just wasn't enough.
"I don't think there's a moral victory," La Russa said. "I think what you do is you give credit to what happened. Anthony Reyes was outstanding and Garcia pitched very well. You're here to win games. This was a very tough game to lose. We had a chance to win and we didn't win it."
Garcia did his part, allowing only four base hits and working deftly around what rare trouble befell him. Garcia went eight innings before handing over to closer Bobby Jenks, who rung up a 1-2-3 ninth against the heart of the Cardinals' order.
Jenks began the frame by retiring Albert Pujols, who went 0-for-4 in his return from the disabled list. As with Reyes' strong showing, Pujols' return didn't provide unmitigated good news -- a couple of hits would have been welcome. But it should be a harbinger of better times.
"You can tell that my timing's not there," Pujols said. "I lose two, three weeks, and it's going to take probably a week or a week and a half before I get back where I was. This is tough. Finding your timing, hopefully it can come soon, but I wasn't expecting myself to go out there today and get four hits.
"I was just trying to have good at-bats, get some pitches and hopefully if I get a couple of hits, that's fine. But just to be back there and see some live pitching, it feels good."
Hits were in short supply for a pair of dangerous offenses, pointing to the quality of the pitching performances. Reyes locked down the White Sox in every inning but the fifth and seventh. The only other man besides Thome to reach base was Jermaine Dye, who got on thanks to center fielder So Taguchi's three-base error in the fifth.
It was a night of firsts for Reyes, who will apparently take at least a couple of turns in the St. Louis rotation while Mulder is on the disabled list. He was charged with his first defeat in the Major Leagues, but he also twirled his first complete game. Reyes struck out six and did not issue a walk, needing only 90 pitches.
"I'm happy with what I did," Reyes said. "Unfortunately we couldn't win, but I tried my best just to keep this one within striking distance. Unfortunately (Garcia) just threw better."
Reyes set down the first 13 White Sox in order before Dye's fly ball off of Taguchi's glove in center. But he escaped that jam with aplomb, getting a soft liner from A.J. Pierzynski and a foul popup from Joe Crede.
"That's as big a test as you're going to have," La Russa said. "[It's a] 0-0 game with quality hitters at the plate. It was great to see. He didn't change anything. That's the way he pitched for them not to have any real rallies. That was a wow performance."
The Sox remained hitless through the sixth, and Tadahito Iguchi flied out to open the seventh. But Thome jumped on first-pitch fastball and throttled it 422 feet to right field, taking away the no-no, the shutout and the win from Reyes.
Nonetheless, the rookie impressed the world champs.
"He looks like [Mark] Prior when [Prior] is healthy," said Joey Cora, the acting White Sox manager while Ozzie Guillen served a one-game suspension.. "Changing speeds, painting. We saw him on film and we knew he was going to be tough. He was even better than expected. If he stays healthy, he's going to be here for a long, long time."
The Cardinals missed out on a tantalizing chance to tie the game or take the lead in the eighth inning. With David Eckstein on second base and two outs, Taguchi appeared to have beaten out an infield hit -- which would have brought up Pujols with two men on. However, Taguchi's ball was ruled foul, and he went on to strike out to end the inning.
"I thought I got a hit," Taguchi said. "I was standing on first base, and that's when the umpire said to come back."
Instead, Pujols opened the ninth against Jenks, and grounded out. When Juan Encarnacion fanned to end the game, a mere two hours had elapsed since the first pitch. Reyes may be around for a long time, but he wasn't on the mound for long on Thursday.
"I think this might be as good as it gets for me," he said.
"But you're always striving to get better."