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Garcia sparks Cards with 1st MLB homer

Rookie's game-tying dinger sets up walk-off win

ST. LOUIS -- Greg Garcia felt pretty certain that by the time the Cardinals were celebrating a 3-2 win over the Cubs on Friday, his 94-year-old grandfather, Dave Garcia, Sr., had already cued up a replay of the game-tying home run Garcia hit two innings before the finish.

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Dave, who grew up just miles from Busch Stadium in East St. Louis, Ill., passed on his affinity for the game to both son and grandson after an extensive Minor League playing career and pair of Major League managerial stints. His words of advice, as Garcia quickly pointed out on Friday, included the following: "His whole saying is always, 'Don't let a fastball strike the catcher's glove.'"

With the biggest swing of his young career on Friday, Garcia never let Pedro Strop's 94-mph fastball reach catcher Miguel Montero. Instead, he drilled it to center, tying the game in the eighth inning and setting off a refreshing celebration of unfettered joy.

"It's indescribable," Garcia said. "You can't recreate that feeling anywhere else in this world. You dream about it as a kid."

Garcia raised his right arm as he neared second, brought it down with a pump and then traded the traditional Hawaiian shaka sign with Kolten Wong, who has been his teammate since their days at the University of Hawaii. Wong had watched the blast from the on-deck circle.

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"You couldn't draw it up any better," Wong said. "With him doing it and me being on deck for that, his first [homer], and it coming in a situation when we needed someone to step up and help, he did it for us and I can't be happier for the guy."

The elation continued in the dugout, where Garcia skipped down the receiving line before his manager prompted him to acknowledge a standing ovation with a curtain call.

"His reaction was the best," manager Mike Matheny said. "I figured he'd go up there and put a real good at-bat together, which he's shown he's been able to do in his short career and all the way through the Minors. I didn't necessarily expect the ball to be leaving center field when he went up there for that at-bat. What a great surprise."

With the Cardinals trailing, 2-1, Matheny summoned Garcia to take a pinch-hit at-bat to lead off the eighth. Garcia laid off a borderline, 2-1 pitch to work into a fastball count and then didn't miss the one Strop delivered. It marked the team's first pinch-hit blast since last postseason and Garcia's first home run since August 2014. According to Statcast™, the ball left the bat at 101 mph and traveled a distance of 403 feet, with a launch angle of 27 degrees.

Garcia had gone 61 games without a long ball in Triple-A before being called up earlier this week.

"I'm not a power hitter. That's not my game," Garcia said. "When the home runs come, they come, but my job is to get on base, try to steal some bases and score some runs."

Garcia, who entered the game with six Major League hits, was able to retrieve the home run ball by trading an autograph to the fan who caught it. The ball will soon be headed to his father, his youth coach for several years.

"I don't know if I could script something like that," Garcia said. "It was surreal. Really, I can't put it into words."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for and listen to her podcast.
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