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Monday, August 23, 2010

Jaime Garcia's Greatest Day

Chris Lee/STLToday.com
After being the hard-luck loser against the Brewers last Tuesday, Jaime Garcia deserved a better fate when he started yesterday. He definitely got it, as he went out pitched the best game of his young career. Jaime was masterful, throwing an 89-pitch, three-hit complete game shutout. The standing ovation he received from the Busch Stadium crowd when he came up to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning was goose-bump inducing, even watching on television. “I think this is the greatest day of my baseball career,” he said after the game.

Thankfully, the Cardinals offense provided more than enough support for Jaime to win. The Cards' bats came alive against Cy Young winners Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito on Saturday and Sunday, as the Cardinals scored 14 runs in the two games to win a series for the first time since sweeping the Reds nearly two weeks ago. The contributions came from everyone, veterans and rookies alike – as well as from the newest Cardinal, Pedro Feliz. After the instant negativity at his acquisition, he had two hits in each of his first three games plus drove in two runs and scored three. He’s also, as expected, played well defensively at third base.

Yes, once again the Cardinals 2010 rollercoaster is on the upswing. With six more weeks left, anything really can happen in the NL Central race between the Cards and the Reds. But yesterday was all about Jaime. Going into the game, he was only 1-2 with a 4.41 ERA for the month of August (including that not-so-memorable start on Diamond Diaries night Aug. 3 when the Cards lost 18-4). Jaime’s numbers for the second half of the season were perfectly fine, 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA, but not quite on the same pace as the first half when he was 8-4 with a 2.17 ERA. He’s been given extra rest this month, with a week between each of his previous August starts, as the innings have piled up in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, and his total innings pitched will likely continue to be monitored. Yesterday everything paid off, as he proved just how talented he is.

I will admit to not realizing Jaime’s efficiency yesterday until seeing a couple of tweets after the fifth inning saying that he’d only thrown 50 pitches. Of course I’d noticed he’d been doing well and hadn’t allowed anything beyond Pat Burrell’s two singles, but was focused more on the offense as the Cards scored in the third, fourth and fifth innings (including Jaime’s base hit and his going from first base to third on Brendan Ryan’s single). From then, each inning became a joy to watch as he retired Giant after Giant. Before yesterday, Jaime’s longest outing had been seven innings – something he’d done five times this season, and not since July 21 – so it was exciting to see him move through the eighth so quickly. Then came the top of the ninth. How appropriate that the first two outs were right to him, although it was a bit disappointing that Nick Schierholtz singled. But in the end, of course it didn’t matter, and Jaime finished the game in 89 total pitches.

He’s now 11-6 for the season, with an ERA of 2.42 (sixth best in the National League). His name continues to be rightfully mentioned in the NL Rookie of the Year race. Jaime continues to anchor his third of the Cardinals Big Three starters along with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. And all three continue to dominate, as the team is 50-27 in games they’ve started (and 17-27 otherwise).

Jaime's masterpiece yesterday is definitely something to be savored, a game to watch again and appreciate all the more – most definitely his greatest game, and day, to date. Here's to many more career highlights like that in his future.

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