ST. LOUIS -- It's a claim that's been thrown around for years by teammates and coaches, this idea that Jaime Garcia has the sort of rare movement that makes him a candidate to throw a no-hitter any time he takes the mound. On Thursday, he nearly did.
With the best statistical start of his career, Garcia dazzled in a one-hit shutout to help the Cardinals to a 7-0 win over the Brewers. In it, he set a career high with 13 strikeouts, the most by a Cardinals lefty since Steve Carlton struck out 16 in 1970, and posted a game score of 97, the best in baseball this year.
The only thing that could have topped it would have been erasing the sixth-inning Domingo Santana single that foiled Garcia's no-hit bid.
"It's amazing what he can make the ball do," manager Mike Matheny said of Garcia's unique pitch movement. "When he's in a good rhythm, what we just saw right there is something he's capable of doing."
Capability has often been overshadowed by absence, though, for Garcia, who has had injuries interrupt each of his last four seasons. Since he last pitched a shutout in 2011, his left arm had been operated on twice since. For a long time, too, it was assumed that Garcia's injury history would scare the Cardinals away from exercising his option for this season.
But they did last fall, believing that Garcia still had the ability to be special. Thursday was a reminder that he most certainly still can be.
"It's definitely up there," Garcia said, when asked if this leapfrogged any other performance from his eight-year career. "During the game, I try not to pay attention to what's going on behind me, but [instead] just focus on the next pitch. That's the mentality that I try to have. But obviously once the game is over, I do enjoy it."
Garcia was so zeroed in, he said, that he paid little attention to the details, including the fact that he carried a no-hitter through 5 2/3 innings. He was unaware he had struck out 13 until someone told him postgame, and he was oblivious to the activity behind him in the bullpen that signaled his short leash in the ninth inning. It didn't matter. He closed the game with his sixth 1-2-3 inning of the afternoon.
Those on both teams marveled at how well Garcia commanded pitches that had so much movement. Garcia, who challenged the Brewers with a heavy dose of sinkers and changeups, walked just one and induced 13 ground-ball outs.
"The thing they talked about was the movement on every pitch," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "On the sinker, on the changeup, which was acting like a split-finger. He had plus-plus movement today, late movement."
"It's everything you can imagine," said teammate Randal Grichuk, who watched it all unfold from center field. "You don't know how good he is unless you're catching or in center field because you don't really see how much the ball moves. You see hitters take not-so comfortable hacks and a lot of check swings. He can do anything with it. It's pretty incredible."
Garcia's one-hitter was the first by a Cardinals pitcher since Adam Wainwright held Arizona to one hit on May 20, 2014. The Cardinals did not have a nine-inning complete game by a starter all of last season.