WASHINGTON – On the day Stephen Strasburg was declared done for the season, another rookie kept humming along, pitching the St. Louis Cardinals to victory in the ballpark where Strasburg is supposed to rule.
Jaime Garcia pitched 5 1-3 scoreless innings Friday night, and Albert Pujols hit his 401st home run as the Cardinals broke a three-game skid with a 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals.
Garcia (12-6) worked out of several jams, tied a season-high with seven strikeouts and extended his streak to 20 1-3 innings without allowing an earned run. The 24-year-old left-hander leads major league rookies in wins.
Garcia pitched his first career shutout in his previous outing, and his performance Friday came at just the right time for the struggling Cardinals. St. Louis had lost 8 of 11 — including three straight to last-place teams — to fall behind in the NL Central and wild card races.
Pujols hit his 400th homer Thursday and later twisted in his ankle in a 13-inning loss. However, he was back in the lineup again Friday and put a solo shot beyond the left field bullpen off Scott Olsen (3-7), Pujols' 35th homer of the season and his fifth in seven career games at Nationals Park.
Matt Holliday added his 23rd home run of the year in the eighth inning.
The Nationals lost for the fifth time in six games, failing to lift the cloud that descended over the franchise Friday morning when the team announced that prized right-hander Strasburg has a torn elbow ligament and will likely need Tommy John surgery to repair elbow ligaments.
The Nationals had been shut out in three of their last seven games, and they couldn't capitalize on numerous chances against Garcia. They left the bases loaded in the second and third innings and had runners on first and second with one out in the fifth.
In the sixth, Washington finally chased Garcia with two hits and a walk that loaded the bases with one out. Mitchell Boggs came on in relief, and pinch hitter Adam Kennedy appeared to put the Nationals on the board until his fly ball down the right field line landed just foul. Kennedy then made the second out with a weak liner to shortstop, and Ian Desmond grounded out to first to end the inning.
When the Nationals finally scored, it came on a home run by pinch hitter Willie Harris in the eighth — but it was only a solo shot because Nyjer Morgan had just been picked off first base. Washington added another run in the ninth when Desmond doubled off Ryan Franklin and scored on a wild pitch. Franklin also allowed a two-out triple to Michael Morse and then walked Roger Bernadina, but he retired Ivan Rodriguez on a grounder to second to complete his 22nd save.
The Nationals also didn't help themselves in the field, committing two errors in the Cardinals' two-run third. Adam Dunn misplayed a grounder and then made a bad throw that allowed Garcia to reach base, and catcher Rodriguez threw wild in an attempted pickoff at second base. Jon Jay and Holliday drove home the runs in the inning with RBI singles off Olsen, who has lost five straight starts.
Notes: Matt Morris was the last St. Louis rookie to win 12 games in a season, finishing with a dozen in 1997. ... Cardinals C Yadier Molina sat out the game with swelling in his right knee after jamming his leg on the base while running out a groundball in Thursday's loss. ... Rodriguez's single in the sixth inning was his 2,800th career hit. ... Washington left 14 men on base, a season high for nine innings.