PHILADELPHIA (AP) -By the time Jaime Garcia was done throwing another six strong innings against the Phillies, he appeared headed toward a no-decision.
One timely pinch-hit home run by Nick Stavinoha got the Cardinals - and Garcia - the win.
Garcia allowed one run in his latest strong outing, David Freese had three RBIs and Stavinoha hit a tiebreaking homer to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night.
``It's pretty simple scenario,' Stavinoha said. ``If I'm going to be here and be a Cardinal, that's what I have to embrace. I want an opportunity and if it's off the bench, then that's great.'
Garcia (3-1) gave up three hits and struck out six in the latest strong outing from the left-handed sensation. He has pitched at least six innings in all five starts and allowed one earned run or less in four of them.
Stavinoha delivered his pinch-hit homer leading off the seventh against Joe Blanton (0-1). Freese added a bases-loaded double and the Cardinals took the opener of a four-game series between two of the NL's top teams.
``There have only been a handful of games where I felt like we didn't have a shot at it,' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
Jayson Werth hit a solo shot for the Phillies and has reached base in all 25 games this season.
Kyle McClellan yielded one run in two innings of relief for the Cardinals. Trever Miller allowed Chase Utley's solo homer in the ninth to make it 6-3 and Ryan Franklin recorded the last two outs.
Blanton was sharp in his first start of the season and gave the Phillies' rotation a needed boost. Blanton, who was on the disabled list while recovering from an oblique strain in spring training, helped turn this game into a pitchers' duel until the seventh. Blanton needed only eight pitches for a 1-2-3 first and looked back in 2009 form when he won 12 games.
Garcia was simply better.
He caught a huge break in the fifth inning after letting Juan Castro tie it at 1 on a sacrifice fly. Garcia had runners on first and second with one out. Blanton bunted, but catcher Yadier Molina made the quick grab to nail the runner at third. Shortstop Brendan Ryan's throw to first pulled Skip Schumaker off the bag and into a running Blanton.
Blanton was called out on interference for an inning-ending double play. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel argued the call and was ejected from the game.
``They said Blanton was in the grass and interfered with the throw,' Manuel said. ``Hopefully he knew the third baseman made the throw and not the catcher.'
That made Manuel 0 for 2 vs. the umps. He protested when Utley's long drive in the first hooked to the right of the right-field foul pole. Manuel was granted a video replay, but after 3 minutes, 40 seconds, the foul call stood.
The Phillies could have used all those runs against Garcia.
Colby Rasmus' sacrifice fly off Blanton in the second inning gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. They ran into their own bad break in the fifth when Ryan doubled to right and was thrown out at third trying for a triple. Ryan was called safe, then out after he tried to switch hands and stay on the base on a headfirst slide.
``You called me out!?' Ryan howled in protest.
The ump did, and Ryan was.
``I was standing on the bag and I heard the crowd go crazy,' Ryan said. ``I turned around and I was out.'
Ryan, who entered batting .192, batted ninth and Garcia hit eighth. That move appeared to backfire in the fourth. Rasmus hit a two-out double and Molina was intentionally walked, but Garcia grounded out to end the inning.
But the move paid off for La Russa in the seventh. Stavinoha, who turned 28 on Monday, pinch hit for Garcia to lead off the seventh and snapped a tie game.
Blanton was chased after two singles, and Nelson Figueroa intentionally walked Matt Holliday. Freese cleared the bases with a double and Rasmus followed with a run-scoring single for a 6-1 lead.
``I still felt strong in the seventh,' Blanton said. ``I was still throwing quality pitches. I probably felt better than in spring training.'
The Cardinals had 14 hits - 10 against Blanton. Brad Lidge worked a scoreless ninth for the Phillies as he slowly works his way back into the closer's role while he recovers from right elbow surgery.
NOTES: Phillies RHP Ryan Madson will have surgery Tuesday on the broken right toe he injured when he kicked a chair after blowing a save. Philadelphia trainer Scott Sheridan said there will be a better timetable for Madson's return following the surgery. Madson had a CT scan Monday and it revealed further damage to his foot. ... Werth has reached base in all 25 games, the longest streak to start a season for a Phillie since 1920. His streak is also the longest in baseball this season.
The Associated Press News Service
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