Jaime Garcia homered and pitched into the seventh inning as the St. Louis Cardinals downed the Cincinnati Reds, 4-2, in the opener of a three-game series at Busch Stadium.
Garcia (7-7) allowed two runs on six hits and a walk while striking out six over 6 2/3 innings for the Cardinals, who remained two games ahead of Los Angeles for the NL's final wild card spot with two games left in the regular season after the Dodgers also won on Monday.
Jason Motte tossed a perfect ninth inning to record his 41st save of the season.
Bronson Arroyo (12-10) surrendered three runs on six hits and a walk through five full frames for the NL Central-champion Reds, who welcomed back manager Dusty Baker in the loss.
Baker had missed the last 11 games while being treated for an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke suffered on Sept. 21.
"Bronson has been pitching a lot better than his record indicates," Baker said. "He just needs to keep pitching like this and we'll get him some runs."
After the Cardinals left a man on second base in the first inning, Cincinnati took the lead in the third when Drew Stubbs hit a one-out single, advanced to second on an Arroyo sacrifice bunt and came home on a Brandon Phillips base hit to left field.
Zack Cozart followed with a single to move Phillips to third, but Joey Votto flied out to left to end the inning.
St. Louis, though, answered in the bottom of the frame to take the lead. Garcia started rally by opening the inning with the second home run of his career.
"Anytime you can help yourself offensively, whether its a home run, hit or bunt, whatever it is it's exciting," Garcia said.
Carlos Beltran followed two batters later with a walk and moved to second on a Matt Holliday single before Allen Craig plated him with a double into the left-field corner. Yadier Molina's sacrifice fly to center field scored Holliday to give the Cardinals a 3-1 advantage.
St. Louis added a run in the sixth inning as Molina singled and rounded the bases on Daniel Descalso's two-out triple into the left-center field gap, but the Reds got that run back in the seventh when Scott Rolen doubled, advanced to third on a passed ball and came home on a Ryan Hanigan sacrifice fly.
Mitchell Boggs would then strand a runner on second in the eighth inning before Motte struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth.
Reds bench coach Chris Speier led the Reds to a 7-4 record in Baker's absence ... Garcia has won three straight starts and improved to 8-2 in 13 career meetings (11 starts) against Cincinnati ... Arroyo has dropped his last three decisions ... The Cardinals lead the season series between the teams, 7-6.