June 16, 2015

Manager Mike Matheny knew the St. Louis Cardinals' starting rotation would be even more dangerous once Jaime Garcia returned.

Just how good Garcia has been with a history of arm and shoulder problems is nothing short of stunning, though.

He'll make his sixth start of the season Thursday as he looks to help the visiting Cardinals wrap up this four-game home-and-home series with a third win over the Minnesota Twins.

Garcia (2-3, 2.06 ERA) didn't pitch in the majors in 2009 because of elbow issues and was placed on the 60-day disabled list in 2012 before returning for an appearance in the playoffs.

The left-hander made just nine starts in 2013 because of a shoulder strain, then started seven times last season before season-ending shoulder surgery. Garcia started 2015 rehabbing in the minors before making his season debut May 21.

He hasn't shown any effects of the injuries and is coming off his best outing after allowing four hits over eight innings of Friday's 4-0 win over Kansas City. Garcia didn't walk a batter for the fourth straight start, and he has a 0.89 WHIP while allowing three runs over his last three.

After not receiving any run support in three of his first four outings, Garcia helped himself with an RBI single.

"When he's healthy, that's kind of what you expect," Matheny said. "I think that's a pretty big statement, but he's that good."

Garcia's run has helped the Cardinals (43-22) possess the majors' second-best ERA for a starting rotation, which improved to 2.95 after Carlos Martinez allowed one earned run in 6 2-3 innings Wednesday.

Jason Heyward drove in the team's only run, though, as St. Louis' five-game winning streak ended with a 3-1 loss to the Twins (35-30). The Cardinals, who have tried to remain focused despite the ongoing investigation into alleged hacking by members of the organization into the Houston Astros' database, haven't scored more than four runs in their last 10 while batting .230 in that stretch.

''We're still seeing good at-bats, seeing good swings. Just one of those ruts where you just keep powering your way through it and it's going to happen,'' Matheny said. ''But right now, they're hard to come by. But once again, we've got quite a few games here where we've got one more than the other guy, so can't make too much out of it.''

Minnesota had dropped nine of its previous 11, including the first two of this series at Busch Stadium. Top prospect Byron Buxton went 0 for 3 in his home debut and is 2 for 13 with five strikeouts in four games.

Eduardo Nunez went 2 for 2 with a walk, a sacrifice fly and an RBI infield single. Glen Perkins got an out in the eighth and allowed the first two hitters to reach in the ninth before remaining perfect in 23 save attempts.

''Whether it's three outs or four outs, it doesn't matter,'' Perkins said. ''I want to win and we did tonight.''

Mike Pelfrey got just four outs Saturday before allowing a run, the first of the eight he surrendered through 3 2-3 innings of an 11-7 loss at Texas. It marked the worst outing of the season for Pelfrey (5-3, 3.18) after he went 2-1 with a 0.96 ERA over his previous four starts.

"It was a little bit of a different guy than what we've seen," manager Paul Molitor said. "His fastball was up and his split, he was trying to find it, but when he threw it over the plate it seemed to hang a little bit."

Molitor hopes to get the version of Pelfrey that has been more consistent at home than on the road. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.48 ERA in five starts at Target Field compared to 2-3 with a 4.46 ERA in seven road starts.

Pelfrey's only three starts against the Cardinals have come at Busch Stadium, and he hasn't faced them since 2011 while with the New York Mets.

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