ST. LOUIS -- It was fitting that April ended with another dominant outing by a St. Louis starter, because the Cardinals' rotation has been playing a game of can-you-top-this all month.
Jaime Garcia took the spotlight Tuesday night with eight efficient innings as St. Louis snapped a three-game losing streak, edging Cincinnati 2-1 at Busch Stadium.
Matt Holliday's two-run homer to left-center with one out in the bottom of the sixth was the game-winning hit as the Cardinals (15-11) beat Bronson Arroyo (2-3) for the second time in exactly three weeks.
Arroyo baffled St. Louis for most of his seven innings, but hung a 3-2 curve and Holliday laced it into the front row of the left-center field bleachers. The 409-foot blast was his third homer of the season.
"I thought it had a chance to get out, but I wasn't sure," Holliday said. "I hit it hard and it had backspin, but it was a low liner."
While Arroyo deserved a better fate, it was hard to argue against Garcia's work. The lefthander needed just 92 pitches to handle the Reds' order, scattering seven hits and striking out three.
Throwing a first-pitch strike to 20 of 29 batters, Garcia recorded 18 ground ball outs and retired nine of the last 10 men he faced. The only man who reached base in that span, Brandon Phillips, was promptly caught stealing in a crazy rundown which required six throws to nab him at second.
"That's what I'm after -- those dirty outs," Garcia said. "If I can throw strikes and get them to hit the ball to our great defense, I should have good outings."
Garcia (3-1) lowered his earned run average to 2.50 with his longest outing of the season and improved to 9-2 in his career against Cincinnati (14-13). For the month, Cardinal starting pitchers posted an MLB-best earned run average of 2.16 and had 19 quality starts (six innings, three earned runs or less) in 26 games.
"We feed off each other," Garcia said of the rotation.
"Tonight is about as good as it gets for Jaime," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.
Still, Matheny didn't hesitate to wave new closer Edward Mujica in from the bullpen when the Reds sent up their 3-4-5 hitters -- Joey Votto, Phillips and Jay Bruce -- in the ninth. Mujica justified the move by striking out the side for his fifth save in as many chances.
In a bullpen which has been as bad as the starters have been good, Mujica's ascension to the closer role has been nothing short of welcome. With Jason Motte (right elbow) still on the shelf, Mujica has allowed just six baserunners in 10 innings, fanning 11.
"It's tough to get through their lineup four times," Matheny said. "Edward just goes after you and throws strikes. He's doing a good job mixing his pitches."
Both starters changed speeds and spins beautifully, keeping hitters off-stride throughout. Garcia's only blemish came in the fifth inning, when Shin-Soo Choo ripped an RBI double to left-center field with two outs that plated Derrick Robinson.
It looked like Arroyo would make it stick until Holliday had different ideas of justice.
"It stinks to see Bronson pitch that well and not get him but one run," Cincinnati third baseman Todd Frazier said. "It all comes back to situational hitting and we didn't do a good job of that. We had chances in the early innings and didn't come through."
The Reds started innings two through four with leadoff singles but failed to convert any of those into runs as Garcia worked quickly and pounded the strike zone. Cincinnati pushed runners to the corners with one out in the top of the second, but Garcia induced a first-pitch 6-4-3 double play bouncer from Devin Mesoraco.
It was one of only five at-bats with men in scoring position for the Reds, or five more than the Cardinals. But Holliday made one big swing hide another poor night at the plate for St. Louis.
"That guy is a beast," Arroyo said. "He swings the bat as hard as anyone in baseball."
NOTES: After Wednesday's series finale with St. Louis, Cincinnati gets its first day off since April 11. It's the first of two stretches this season where the Reds play 20 straight days, the longest allowed by MLB rules. ... Cardinals third baseman David Freese got the night off after another hitless game Monday evening dropped his average to .163. Freese has just two doubles, three RBI and 12 strikeouts in 49 at-bats. ... The game was finished in a crisp two hours and 15 minutes and required just 198 pitches, or 399 fewer than Monday night's 19-inning marathon between the Angels and Athletics.