Lefty Jaime Garcia returns for the first time in more than two months today when the St. Louis Cardinals host the Pittsburgh Pirates in the finale of a three-game weekend series at Busch Stadium.
The 26-year-old Mexican last pitched in the majors on June 5 and was tagged for six runs in two innings of a loss at Houston before being placed on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder fatigue.
He's since made four rehabilitation starts in the minors, combining to go 1-1 with a 4.08 earned run average while allowing 16 hits and eight runs in 17 2/3 innings with three walks and 20 strikeouts.
Garcia's last win in the big leagues came May 16 at San Francisco.
He's 1-1 with a 1.08 ERA in 16 2/3 innings across four career meetings with the Pirates.
The Cardinals climbed within a game of the Pirates for the second National League Wild Card playoff berth on Saturday, when Jason Motte survived a tumultuous ninth inning in a 5-4 win.
Rafael Furcal scored twice and Yadier Molina smashed the go-ahead, two-run double for the Cardinals, who lost the series opener on Friday, 2-1.
Lance Lynn received a no-decision for St. Louis, lasting only 4 1/3 innings. He was charged for three runs on four hits and three walks. He did strike out eight, but his earned run average expanded to 6.58 over his last five starts.
"I threw the ball well all day," Lynn said. "You give up four hits and they cost you four runs, that's the tough part about it. You gotta make sure those hits don't cost you runs, especially where in the lineup that they cost me runs. You gotta make better pitches to those guys."
The Cardinals tagged Erik Bedard (7-13) for five runs, nine hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.
"What I'm hoping, in the large picture, is for our rotation to stabilize itself," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "When you're contemplating taking your starter out three, four times in the in the last two weeks in the fifth inning, it's not the direction that you want to head."
The Cardinals are a game behind the Pirates and five games behind the Atlanta Braves in pursuit of the NL's two Wild Card slots. St. Louis trails Cincinnati by 7 1/2 games in the NL Central Division race.
Pittsburgh, which fell to 6 1/2 games behind the Reds, starts righty Jeff Karstens, who aims for a second win in his fourth August outing.
The 29-year-old was an 8-4 winner over the Chicago Cubs in his initial August start, but has since allowed 15 hits and seven runs in 13 innings in a no- decision against Arizona and a 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He last faced St. Louis on June 30 and was a 7-3 winner after allowing two runs on four hits in seven innings.
In eight career meetings with the Cardinals, he's 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA.
St. Louis won five of the first nine games between the teams in 2012, but the Pirates won two of three in the most recent series from June 29-July 1 at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals won last year's season series, 9-7, while Pittsburgh last won in 2008.