The St. Louis Cardinals got their key road trip off on the right foot in Friday's opener of a three-game series with the NL Central- leading Cincinnati Reds.
They now turn to Jaime Garcia, who looks to further cut into the Reds' advantage in his second start since coming off the disabled list.
The left-handed Garcia made his first start since June 5 on Sunday versus the Pirates and did not factor into what was eventually a 19-inning loss for St. Louis. Garcia pitched very well, allowing just two unearned runs over eight innings while striking out a career-high 10.
Though he showed no lingering effects from a left shoulder impingement, Garcia remained winless since May 16.
The 26-year-old is 3-4 with a 4.00 earned run average in 12 starts this season and has excellent career numbers against the Reds, going 7-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 11 meetings (9 starts). That includes a victory on April 18 in which Garcia spun seven innings of one-run ball.
Garcia gets the call for the second contest of the Cardinals' 10-game road trip that also goes through Pittsburgh and Washington. The Pirates are one team battling the Cards for a wild card spot, while the Nationals lead the NL East.
St. Louis, though, pulled to within six games of first-place Cincinnati with Friday's 8-5 win, also moving 1 1/2 games up for the league's second wild card.
Allen Craig and Yaider Molina hit back-to-back homers during a six-run sixth inning, with the latter following Craig's three-run blast.
"I was trying to get a sac fly in that situation," said Craig. "I was glad I got enough of it."
Craig and Molina both finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored for the Cardinals, who were coming off a sweep of the Astros. They will now try to win five in a row for the first time since June 22-26.
Todd Frazier had three hits, a walk, an RBI and a run scored for the Reds, who went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
They'll try to avoid a third straight loss today behind right-hander Mike Leake, who seeks a bounce-back effort after getting drilled in a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday.
Leake, coming off a complete-game win over the New York Mets, yielded a season high seven runs on 10 hits and a walk over 4 1/3 frames of a 12-5 loss.
"Leake couldn't get the ball down," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "There were too many pitches up in the zone."
Leake, 24, fell to 5-8 with a 4.59 ERA in 24 starts this season and makes his third appearance of 2012 against the Cardinals. He has allowed five runs over 12 innings while going 0-1 in the previous two encounters and is 1-2 lifetime in this matchup with a 5.24 ERA.
The Reds had won their last four meetings with the Cardinals and the clubs have now split 10 encounters this season.
Cincinnati will look to draw a spark from the retirement of Barry Larkin's No. 11 jersey prior to the game, the highlight of a weekend honoring the former 12-time All-Star and recent Hall of Fame inductee who spent his entire 19-year career with the Reds.