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Prior start behind him, Garcia ready for Game 5

Prior start behind him, Garcia ready for Game 5

Prior start behind him, Garcia ready for Game 5 play video for Prior start behind him, Garcia ready for Game 5
ST. LOUIS -- A second start represents a fresh opportunity for Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia.

With Milwaukee taking Game 4 on Thursday, the best-of-seven National League Championship Series is even at 2. The 25-year-old Garcia gets the call for the Cards in Game 5 on Friday night at Busch Stadium.

The meeting takes on added urgency for Garcia in light of St. Louis' defeat on Thursday, as the Redbirds want to regain advantage in their final home game of the NLCS.

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"If you want Jaime to pitch, this is when you want him to take the ball," Albert Pujols said. "He's done well, pretty much, in this stadium. But he can tell you, even though those numbers look good during the season, this is different. This is the postseason, and he's going to go out there and do his best, and hopefully we can score some runs for him."

Tale of the Tape: Game 5
2011 Regular Season
Overall: 28 GS, 16-10, 3.83 ERA, 45 BB, 201 K
Overall: 32 GS, 13-7, 3.56 ERA, 50 BB, 156 K
Key stat: 10.54 strikeouts per 9 IP (1st in MLB, among qualified starters)
Key stat: Two shutouts (tied 2nd-most in National League)
At Busch Stadium
2011: 1 GS, 0-1, 2.57 ERA
Career: 3 GS, 2-1, 2.35 ERA
2011: 15 GS, 9-4, 2.55 ERA
Career: 30 GS, 16-9, 2.37 ERA
Against this opponent
2011: 4 GS, 3-1, 4.50 ERA
Career: 8 GS, 6-3, 4.31 ERA
2011: 3 GS, 1-1, 4.50 ERA
Career: 8 GS, 3-3, 4.12 ERA
Loves to face: Nick Punto, 4-for-19
Hates to face: Matt Holliday, 7-for-15
Loves to face: Jonathan Lucroy, 2-for-16
Hates to face: Corey Hart, 9-for-22
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: Brewers have won the last six times he's taken the mound
Why he'll win: 3-1 with a 2.36 ERA in his last four home starts
Pitcher beware: 1-0 despite an 8.18 ERA through his two postseason starts
Pitcher beware: 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in two postseason starts, incl. Game 1 loss
Bottom line: Just keep winning
Bottom line: Bounce back strong
Garcia will be making his second start of the series. In his mind, he has wiped the slate clean of his first outing. The left-hander was tagged for six runs in four-plus innings in a 9-6 Game 1 loss at Miller Park.

"I've said this before, I feel really good about myself -- physically, mentally -- and I'm ready to go," Garcia said.

After any rough performance, a pitcher eagerly awaits his next start. For Garcia, there is added incentive, because of all that is on the line in the postseason -- especially with the Cardinals departing the friendly confines of Busch Stadium after Game 5.

"No question, [Friday] is huge for us," Nick Punto said. "We want to go into Milwaukee not having to win two."

Milwaukee counters in Game 5 with Zack Greinke, who picked up the win the series opener.

"After you make a start where things don't go your way, you get a little anxious," Garcia said. "But it's part of it. It's part of the game. You've got to have that feeling.

"It's the playoffs, it's a little more exciting. But I'm just trying to take this as getting ready as any other game, and just basically work on what I need to work on, and go out there and do my thing. Then try not to put too much pressure on myself."

As an organization, the Cardinals don't shy away from pressure. In fact, they like to challenge their players -- especially their young ones, like Garcia.

"No. 1, our philosophy is based on recognizing pressure and making it your friend," manager Tony La Russa said. "From the first day of Spring Training, you try to make the club and earn playing time during the season. So you have to make something happen -- you have to make a pitch. So putting pressure on these guys, pretty soon, they learn to deal with it, because everybody deals with it a different way."

Garcia will be making his third playoff start, and he is looking to pick up his first win. He has suffered two losses, including a setback in Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Phillies.

Against Milwaukee at Miller Park, the left-hander encountered trouble in the first inning. A one-out walk to Jerry Hairston Jr. set the tone. The next pitch was crushed by Ryan Braun for a two-run homer.

Garcia did settle into a groove for three innings, but the Brewers broke free for four quick runs in a span of 12 pitches to open the fifth.

Corey Hart singled, Hairston doubled and Braun delivered a two-run double. The next pitch was a two-run homer by Prince Fielder, and Garcia's start was over. The Brewers ended up scoring six runs in the fifth to gain control.

"We've been in this situation," Pujols said. "It's best out of three. That's how you need to look at it. We need to win [Friday].

"It's going to be tough in Milwaukee, but I think one thing we can look at, we're pretty much the only team in the National League that has been playing pretty well in Milwaukee. So you just need to flip the page and come back, and hopefully take the lead tomorrow and see what we have on Sunday."

Milwaukee won an MLB-high 57 games at home, and has maintained its Miller Park momentum in the postseason.

This time around, though, Garcia has the luxury of pitching at home.

At Busch Stadium, the left-hander is 9-4 with a 2.55 ERA, compared to a 4-3 (4.61) mark on the road.

"Obviously, I like pitching here," Garcia said. "But I don't really feel any different on the road. I just feel like throughout the year, a lot of times when I've pitched on the road, it was just one of those things where it didn't go your way. But I've had some good games on the road and then some not very good at home."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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