The St. Louis Cardinals didn’t close the first half of the season on a positive note. Their second half got off to a much better start.
The Cardinals try to maintain their home-field edge over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night when the teams continue their four-game series.
After dropping seven of 11 heading into the All-Star break, St. Louis (48-41) returned to the field Thursday with a 7-1 victory over the Dodgers. Pitching on his longest rest of the season, right-hander Chris Carpenter(notes) threw eight innings of four-hit ball as the Cardinals improved to 18-4 at Busch Stadium in this matchup since the beginning of the 2004 season.
“That’s six days rest, and (Carpenter) was strong,” said manager Tony La Russa, whose team moved within one-half game of NL Central-leading Cincinnati. “He was nails all night long.”
While Carpenter and Adam Wainwright(notes) have anchored the Cardinals’ staff as expected, rookie left-hander Jaime Garcia(notes) (8-4, 2.17 ERA) has given the club a surprising lift after earning the fifth spot in the rotation out of spring training.
Garcia, who is among the major league leaders in ERA, has allowed just four homers in 99 2/3 innings and has been dominant in seven home starts, going 3-1 with a 1.20 ERA.
This will be Garcia’s first start against the Dodgers, against whom he earned his first career win Aug. 5, 2008, when he threw an inning of scoreless relief in a 6-4, 11-inning victory.
While the Cardinals look to continue their push back toward first place, Los Angeles (49-40) will try to keep pace in a crowded NL West, where 3 1/2 games separate the top four teams.
Billingsley, 1-2 with a 4.73 ERA in five starts against the Cardinals, walked a season high-tying four but struck out nine in last Friday’s 9-7 home win over the Chicago Cubs. It was the right-hander’s first victory since May 26.
“I was able to have some quick innings in the middle of the game,” Billingsley said after giving up four runs and seven hits in seven innings. “Guys swung the bats good. It was nice pitching with a lead.”
Andre Ethier(notes) has been swinging the bat as well as anyone in the Los Angeles lineup. The right fielder, who went 2 for 4 with a solo homer Thursday, is batting .400 (18 for 45) with three homers and eight RBIs in 11 July games.