Braves-Cardinals Preview

The Associated Press

It's been one year and a day since Jaime Garcia last pitched in the majors, a layoff Gavin Floyd can relate to.

The long road back ends Sunday in St. Louis when the Cardinals left-hander makes his season debut against the Atlanta Braves and Floyd, whose return from Tommy John surgery isn't far ahead of Garcia's from a shoulder operation.

After Saturday's 4-1 win, the Cardinals (23-20) are looking to complete a three-game sweep and turn to Garcia, who allowed two runs on three hits in five innings with Triple-A Memphis on Monday before returning to St. Louis on Wednesday.

"I'm at a point where I can compete and I can go out there and do what is asked of me to do," Garcia told the team's official website. "Obviously, you don't have it all figured out, but you go out there and can think about pitching and getting hitters out, not just how bad your shoulder is going to hurt. I'm here. I've got to get ready for (Sunday). I'm really excited to be here. I was really anxious to get with this team."

Garcia made nine starts in 2013 before missing the rest of the season, going 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA. He's 2-0 with a 3.65 ERA in four starts against Atlanta. Chris Johnson is 5 for 14 with a home run and six RBIs against Garcia, while Freddie Freeman is 2 for 5 with a home run.

Floyd (0-1, 2.70 ERA) is two starts into his return after debuting May 6 against St. Louis. He held the Cardinals to a run on six hits in seven innings but didn't factor into the decision in a 2-1 win.

In his second start, he allowed four runs - three earned - on seven hits while striking out eight in 6 1-3 innings of Monday's 4-2 loss in San Francisco. He was in command for six innings before allowing a pair of hits on 0-2 pitches in the Giants' three-run seventh.

"I felt I was executing well the whole game," Floyd told the team's official website. "Obviously looking back, you want to make those (0-2) pitches. But I'm human."

The right-hander is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in three career starts against St. Louis.

Atlanta (22-19) could certainly use another strong pitching effort as its bats continue to be unreliable. The Braves have lost three straight, and after Saturday's six-hit effort, they're 5-12 since April 29 with an MLB-low .209 average and 40 runs scored. The 12 losses in that time are the most in baseball.

They're also 4-12 in St. Louis since the start of 2010 and have dropped seven of their last nine overall against the Cardinals, who have started to receive some offense from certain bats that failed them early on.

Allen Craig is 11 for 30 in his last eight to bump his season average from .202 to .233, while recently recalled second baseman Kolten Wong returned to the lineup Friday and has four hits in eight at-bats after hitting .225 in his first stint with the Cardinals from opening day through April 25.

"It's just a matter of time," Craig said. "I've gone in and out of it the whole season. I've hit some balls decent, but right at people. I've had some good at-bats, some bad at-bats, some good swings, some bad swings. I just need to be more consistent and I am getting there."

Their hottest hitter, though, has been Yadier Molina. The St. Louis catcher is 10 for 21 on a six-game hitting streak and is batting .325 - slightly better than his career-best mark of .319 in 2013.

Matt Holliday is a career .335 hitter against Atlanta, while Andrelton Simmons has a .356 clip versus St. Louis.

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