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Former UH player Garcia’s hot bat keeps him in majors

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS St. Louis Cardinals' Greg Garcia hits an RBI-single off Washington Nationals starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez during the second inning of a baseball game at Nationals Park, Saturday in Washington.

WASHINGTON >> Former University of Hawaii player Greg Garcia was supposed to return to the minors this weekend, but the St. Louis Cardinals kept him on the roster because of his hot bat.

Garcia had three hits and an RBI for the Cardinals in Saturday’s 9-4 win over the Nationals. Recalled from the minors Thursday when Matt Carpenter was placed on the paternity list, Garcia is batting .647 in 11 big league games this season.

The Cardinals league-leading offense gave pitcher Adam Wainwright (5-3) room to operate with a four-run cluster attack against Washington lefty Gio Gonzalez in the second inning and Matt Holliday’s solo homer in the third. Gonzalez, the lefty who couldn’t close out the Cardinals back in 2012 during Game 5 of the National League division series that still unites these teams, didn’t have a lead to lose and didn’t take as long to permit the Cardinals runs on Saturday. Stephen Piscotty opened the inning with a walk, and then the bottom of the order took over.

With two outs, the Cardinals received back-to-back-to-back RBI hits from Garcia, Wainwright, and then leadoff hitter Carpenter.

Garcia floated an RBI single to left field to score Piscotty for the Cardinals’ first run. Wainwright and Carpenter followed with doubles to put the Cardinals ahead 4-0. Carpenter’s RBI double was his first hit as a father as he returned from paternity leave Saturday after spending three days his wife and their newborn daughter, Kinsley Rae Carpenter. Garcia’s RBI single came less than 24 hours after he had forced the Cardinals to keep him.

Garcia was supposed to return to the minors on the day Carpenter came back, but with a home run and two walks Friday, Garcia changed the Cardinals mind. They removed Ruben Tejada from the roster and prepared to trade or release the veteran in part because Garcia had proven more functional in the role.

The win, the Cardinals’ second consecutive against the first-place Nationals, came one run shy of being the Cardinals’ third consecutive quality start. Washington tagged Wainwright with three home runs, two by Ryan Zimmerman, but the returning faith in Wainwright was apparent until the final pitch he threw. With the tying run at the plate in the seventh inning, Matheny stayed with the right-hander.

Zimmerman had already his second home run. A single had followed. And Wainwright’s pitch count inched toward 100. With the last pitch of his fourth win of the month, Wainwright got a groundball that became a double play and squelched the Nats’ threat. Wainwright became the first Cardinals pitcher to get four wins in May since Seth Maness in 2013, but more importantly that the wins — statistical baubles, mostly — are the steady drumbeat of quality innings that have come from Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, and Mike Leake in the past three games.

The Cardinals added on runs late. Matt Adams had a two-run, pinch-hit double, and in the ninth inning Randal Grichuk tripled off the center-field wall to set up a sacrifice fly from Yadier Molina. Grichuk finished with a double and a triple in his final three at-bats.

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