GAME 33: Jaime Maneuvers
Cardinal Nation sat spellbound as Jaime Garcia, the best lefthander in the game, twirled a perfect game for eight innings. It came undone in the eighth, as the emotional Garcia walked Brewers third baseman McGehee. Garcia slammed his fist into his mitt as the Busch Stadium crowd roared their approval of his effort. The next batter, Betancourt, punched a clean single through the left side, ending Garcia’s no-hit bid.
Even though Garcia lost a very special moment (for now), the game served as yet another announcement to the National League: Jaime Garcia is the next great pitcher in baseball. With a weaving fastball and wicked, plate-crossing sliders, an electric Garcia carved up a potent Milwaukee Brewers lineup and nearly made history. You could read Garcia’s palpable disappointment on his face when it didn’t happen this time. He will have other chances.
Meanwhile, Garcia’s effort further galvanized a team that is already running on all cylinders. The offense exploded for six runs in the first three innings. Albert Pujols continued to climb out of his deep funk with another 3-3 game with 3 RBI’s, and Colby Rasmus had the at bat of the game with a blistering opposite field triple off of Brewers starter Randy Wolf. Even more importantly, the team contributed the power without their comeback king, Lance Berkman, who had the night off. It was good to get that offense, because Wolf is typically the kind of pitcher that usually causes us problems – lefty, off-speed stuff, and picking on the corners. He didn’t have his best stuff, and the Cards capitalized.
PITCHER LOVE: How can you really express the love of a Busch Stadium crowd for their young stars? Garcia is one of the special talents on a team that really has some wonderful young arms, and Cardinal Nation knows it. The other night the crowd roared for teh swagger of Eduardo Sanchez. Tonight, they worshiped Garcia. He is a beautiful baseball player; skilled, athletic, focused, centered, and loveable. One can only imagine how it feels for Garcia to stand in the center of that kind of appreciation and bathe in it.
PUNTO WATCH: Punto is one fun little defensive spark plugs. It’s just too bad that he hits like my grandmother. I like Punto as a defensive replacement in the late innings, but does he really need four at bats a game?
LEADOFF RIOT: Ryan Theriot is like the anti-Punto; he hits all the time, but he couldn’t field a ground ball to save a puppy’s life. Theriot was (again) a terrific table-setter tonight, going 1-1 with two runs scored. He’s the most effective leadoff hitter we’ve had since the vintage days of David Eckstein. Maybe even farther back than that.
NO HIT PERSPECTIVE: While Garcia’s no-hit bid was amazing, it’s good to keep the accomplishment in perspective: Rick Horton almost threw one. And someone named Bud Smith actually did. Sure, it would’ve been spectacular to see Jaime achieve the feat, but more important than those singular achievments is a long and dominant career. Nobody wants to be Bud Smith, whose name only induces shrugs and questions like, “Whatever happened to that guy?” Jaime Garcia has the stuff to be one of the greatest pitchers of the next ten or fifteen years. I’d take that over a no-hitter any day of the week.