ST. LOUIS (AP) — Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Matt Garza is finally getting up to speed on the mound.
It was his defense that did him in during a 7-1 loss at the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.
Garza, making just his fourth start of the season, gave up seven runs — four earned — in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out six, walked three and displayed flashes of the form that helped him win 15 games with Tampa Bay in 2010.
Garza (1-1) missed the first 10 months of the season with a right lat strain suffered late in spring training.
“I’m getting better every time out,” Garza said. “My stuff is getting crisper and I’m hitting my spots more often, throwing more strikes.”
Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell saw plenty of positives in Garza’s season-high 103-pitch effort.
“They hit some well-placed balls,” Counsell said. “They kind of nickel-and-dimed their way to five runs.”
Garza’s key throwing error, on a ball hit by Matt Adams, helped open the gates in the five-run fourth inning. With one on and one out, Garza threw an underhanded toss wildly to first after snaring a hard-hit drive. He then allowed the next four hitters to reach safely.
Garza allowed just one run on two hits over the first three innings.
“It was something I can build on,” Garza said.
Chris Carter hit his 20th homer of the season in the second inning. The drive to dead center, which gave him at least 20 homers in each of the last four seasons, went 423 feet.
St. Louis left-hander Jaime Garcia tossed eight effective innings and Matt Holliday drove in three runs to end the Cardinals longest home skid — seven games — since Aug. 2-15, 1983. It was the Cardinals first win at Busch Stadium since a 6-3 victory over San Francisco on June 5.
“We’re very confident in ourselves,” Garcia said. “We have the team, we have the talent. We weren’t worried. It’s a long season.”
Milwaukee has lost four of five and fell to 13-24 on the road, the second-worst road record in the NL behind the Cincinnati Reds.
Garcia (6-6) allowed one run on four hits. He struck out six and walked four. He also shut out Milwaukee 7-0 with a complete-game one-hitter on April 14.
“He was his typical self,” Milwaukee infielder Scooter Gennett said. “He’s a different type of pitcher. Everything he throws looks the same up there. It’s not overpowering, it’s not crazy movement going on. Everything starts in a general area and moves in a lot of different ways.”
Rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz had two hits and reached base three times. He recorded 11 assists, the most by a St. Louis rookie since Stu Martin had 11 assists at second base on June 6, 1936.
Diaz missed the previous three games after fouling a pitch off the area around his right eye on Monday.
Holliday highlighted a five-run outburst in the fourth with a two-run single. Yadier Molina, Garcia and Matt Carpenter also drove in runs in the inning.
Molina had two hits and sits at 1,499 for his career.
RHP Adam Wainwright (6-5, 5.04) will take on Milwaukee RHP Jimmy Nelson (5-6, 3.60) in the second game of the three-game set on Saturday. Wainwright is 12-8 against the Brewers with a 2.32 ERA. Nelson leads the Brewers with eight quality starts.
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