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Greene fuels Cards’ comeback

By Rick Hummel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch –

ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals’ game with the San Diego Padres on Monday night at Busch Stadium had so little action through the first 6½ innings that a balk called against Jaime Garcia in the second inning, when he got his glove stuck in his shirt, had been the defining play.

That misstep, which led to a San Diego run, was Garcia’s only one through his first seven innings, but he trailed 1-0 into the home seventh. And then there was a succession of twists and turns over the next two innings, with the lead changing hands three times.

The final wrinkle went the Cardinals’ way. A two-run homer in the eighth by Tyler Greene, who also had started the Cardinals’ two-run rally in the seventh, gave the Cardinals a 4-3 victory that kept them in first place in the National League Central Division when it appeared they would fall out for the first time this season.

“(For Greene) to pull us out like that that — there’s no secrets around here, we need to get some things turned around,” Cards manager Mike Matheny said. “I’m not going to be slow to acknowledge how big that is for all of us.”

The tempo of the game increased markedly in the Cardinals’ seventh.

First, Garcia was allowed to hit himself with Greene at second and one out. David Freese, three for his last 34, was available but Matheny said he wanted to give Freese an entire mental day off and that Garcia had earned the chance to stay in.

“I just felt pretty good about our offense getting something going and . . . I really didn’t want to take it out of his hand,” Matheny said. “I just figured he had as good of a shot as anybody.”

Garcia beat out a hit to deep short, almost from where he had been thrown out in the previous at-bat. But he beat this play, giving the Cardinals runners at first and third and one out.

Rafael Furcal singled to score Greene, and Garcia, making sure the ball fell safely first, then had a good read and bolted for third base. From there, with the contact play on, he scored the go-ahead run on Matt Carpenter’s groundout.

But after Garcia, at 92 pitches, allowed a leadoff double in the eighth to Chris Denorfia, he was pulled. Garcia said he wasn’t tired from running the bases, although Matheny didn’t reject the premise that running the bases as hard as he did had taken an effect.

Matheny said the move was made more because of potential matchups if Garcia allowed the first man to get on.

The first decision by the manager in the eighth worked out in excellent fashion. Mitchell Boggs got a groundout and then fanned Chase Headley with a nasty full-count slider, keeping Denorfia at third.

This might have been the pitch of the night. Boggs figured that Headley, the Padres’ top RBI man, was going be aggressive, trying to tie the game with at least a fly ball.

“He’s a guy who expects to go up there and get the job done,” Boggs said. “When you have two guys thinking like that, you have an aggressive at-bat.”

With lefthanded-hitting Yonder Alonso up, Matheny went back to lefthander Marc Rzepczynski — who had thrown a game-deciding three-run homer on a 3-0 pitch the night before. Rzepczynski, unfortunately for him, made sure this didn’t happen again by walking Alonso on four pitches.

“Through the course of the year, you’re going to go through some funks,” said Rzepczynski, “and right now I’m in one of them. But I’m not losing faith in myself and I know they’re not losing faith in me.”

Matheny then tried to get closer Jason Motte to perform a four-out save. Instead, Motte tossed a two-out double on a 2-2 pitch to Jesus Guzman and the Padres had forged back ahead 3-2.

This marked the sixth time in the last 11 games that a Cardinals reliever had either blown a save or suffered a loss, although Motte then put the Padres down in the ninth for his third win.

“It’s one pitch,” Motte said. “It’s a one-run ballgame. You make one mistake … and something happens. I didn’t get it up and in enough like I wanted to. But I was able to get those last three outs and we got the win and that’s what’s important.

“The thing about relieving that a lot of people don’t really understand or won’t ever get, really, is you don’t have a choice. If you throw one pitch or something happens, you don’t have a choice but to try to get the next guy out.”

Greene helped rectify the matter.

After Yadier Molina singled with one out, Matt Adams struck out but Greene rifled his fourth homer of the season and his third hit of the night over the right-center wall.

Motte then jumped high to spear one ground ball in the ninth, deflected another to shortstop Furcal, who had to adjust quickly, for the second and then got the final on out on a fly to center.

“I don’t know if I helped make the second (out),” Motte said.

Garcia had had a 1.35 earned-run average for three starts against the Padres. But his balk contributed, in large part, to the Padres scoring in the second. With a runner at first and nobody out, Garcia, who got his glove stuck in his shirt as he brought his arms up, stumbled stepping off the rubber as he tried to extricate his glove. First-base umpire Jerry Layne correctly called the balk.

“Can you believe that?” asked Matheny, smiling afterward. “It was the right call. That’s why I didn’t go out and say anything.”

The balk was the first called on a Cardinals pitcher this season.

“But,” said catcher Molina, “Jaime kept his focus on the game.”

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