After boosting their faint postseason hopes with a late rally, the Cardinals meet the NL wild card-leading Atlanta Braves again Saturday night.
St. Louis (77-67) defeated the Braves 4-3 in 10 innings Friday. Albert Pujols’(notes) two-run single with two outs in the ninth ended closer Craig Kimbrel’s(notes) streak of 25 straight saves, and Nick Punto(notes) delivered the win with a sacrifice fly in his first game since coming off the disabled list.
The Cardinals are seven games behind NL Central-leading Milwaukee and 6 1/2 in back of Atlanta (84-61). St. Louis has two games in hand on the Brewers and one on the Braves.
“Our season is not over,” said Pujols, who had three hits and is batting .469 (15 for 32) with two homers and eight RBIs this month. “All we can do is go out there and give it our best and hopefully at the end we can look back and say we gave it our best this year.”
St. Louis’ lineup has given its best when Garcia takes the mound, providing the left-hander with an NL-leading 6.04 runs per nine innings. He’s looking to win consecutive starts for the first time since a three-game run June 30-July 10.
Pitching on nine days’ rest last Saturday, Garcia (11-7, 3.65 ERA) earned his first victory in seven starts after holding Cincinnati to two runs - one earned - in six innings of the 6-4 win.
“I don’t feel like I need it,” he said of the break. “… I don’t feel like I’ve hit a wall.”
Garcia is 2-1 with a 0.82 ERA in three starts on six or more days of rest this year.
In his only career home start against the Braves, Garcia yielded four hits in seven innings as St. Louis cruised to a 6-0 victory April 28, 2010. He didn’t get a decision in the Cardinals’ 6-5 loss May 1 in Atlanta after yielding four runs in six-plus innings.
Derek Lowe(notes) (9-13, 4.65), who starts Saturday for the Braves, opposed Garcia in that contest and surrendered four runs in five innings. The right-hander is 1-7 with a 6.89 ERA in nine career starts against St. Louis in the regular season, although he won the World Series clincher at the old Busch Stadium with Boston in 2004.
Lowe has alternated wins and losses in his last seven outings overall, posting a 3-4 record with a 5.08 ERA. He’s allowed three runs in 17 innings in the wins, but has been lit up for 23 runs - 19 earned - over 22 innings in the defeats.
Lowe failed in his first bid to reach 10 wins for the 10th straight year, giving up seven runs in five innings of Monday’s 9-0 loss at Philadelphia.
Kimbrel, who leads the majors with 43 saves, has blown both opportunities against the Cardinals this year, going 0-1 and allowing four runs in 2 1-3 innings over three appearances.
“I’ll come back (Saturday) ready to do my job and I hope the opportunity is there, because I definitely want to be in there,” Kimbrel said.