The St. Louis Cardinals haven't been playing their best baseball over the past week, but they're still holding the NL's second wild-card spot.
Getting Jaime Garcia back to his old self down the stretch could give them an excellent chance of staying there.
Garcia looks to bounce back from a rough outing and earn his first win since mid-May on Tuesday night against the visiting New York Mets, who hope to see more positive signs from Matt Harvey as the rookie's season winds down.
St. Louis (73-62) has lost five of its last seven games - totaling four runs in those losses - but managed to find some offense in Monday's opener against the Mets (64-71) even with right fielder Carlos Beltran out due to a sore knee.
Beltran, who's day to day, still managed to contribute to the 5-4 win. When it looked like New York's Andres Torres led off the ninth with a double, Beltran urged manager Mike Matheny to appeal, saying Torres never touched first base. The decision worked, as first base umpire Dave Rackley ruled that he missed it, paving the way for Jason Motte's 33rd save to be much easier than it initially seemed.
"Our MVP of the game today is Carlos Beltran, who never hit the field," Matheny told the Cardinals' official website.
St. Louis is hoping Garcia (3-6, 4.52 ERA) can become its third reliable starter as it makes its postseason push, but he didn't look the part Thursday at Washington. The left-hander gave up six runs and nine hits over 5 1-3 innings in an 8-1 loss, his second straight in his third start since returning from a shoulder injury.
Still, Garcia felt better than when he allowed four runs over six innings in Cincinnati five days earlier.
"It's just one of those things that I felt like every single little mistake that I made, I feel like they took advantage of it," Garcia said.
Garcia hasn't recorded a victory in six starts dating to May 16 - getting just 2.62 runs of support per nine innings - but perhaps Tuesday is an ideal time to get back in the win column. He's 1-0 with a 1.31 ERA in three starts against New York.
While Garcia is fresh after missing 10 weeks, Harvey (3-3, 2.76) is nearing the end of his season. The right-hander, who pitched 110 innings with Triple-A Buffalo before being called up in late July, will likely appear once more after Tuesday due to an innings limit.
He certainly isn't failing to impress. Harvey is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last three outings after limiting Philadelphia to two runs over 6 1-3 innings in a 3-2 win Wednesday.
"I see much better stuff up here than the reports I got from the minor leagues," manager Terry Collins told the Mets' official website. "As he continues to pitch at the major league level, he's going to get better. He's just driven like that."
His eighth major league start could come on the same day top Cardinals prospect Shelby Miller makes his debut. The right-hander will be among a wave of players arriving from Memphis upon the conclusion of the Triple-A season.
He'll pitch out of the bullpen initially. After going 4-8 with a 6.17 ERA in his first 17 starts with the Redbirds, Miller is 7-2 with a 2.88 ERA in his last 10.
"It really seemed like he turned the corner in the way he was going about it," Matheny said. " ... Then we look at the fact that we're right in this thing. So we have to have our best. And if he's one of our best right now, then he should be here."
- Jaime Garcia
- Carlos Beltran
- New York Mets
- Mike Matheny
- Matt Harvey