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Monday, Dec. 22, 2014

Garcia showing signs of maturity, Furcal a great value

Posted Thursday, May 17, 2012, at 9:20 AM

The Jaime Garcia that took the mound in San Francisco last night is not the same guy who pitched to the Braves on Friday in St. Louis.

Unlike in past starts, he dripped of confidence. So often with Jaime, he struggles toward the fifth inning or collapses when he gets in a real jam.

Last night marks his second road win of 2012. Garcia, who is typically far more solid at Busch Stadium than elsewhere, has so far won only one of his three home starts.

Garcia had strung together only 27 strikeouts in his first seven starts, but posted nine against the Giants in 7.1 innings pitched. He is the first left-handed pitcher to throw nine strikeouts with zero walks since Rick Ankiel in 2000.

With runners at third base in three of the innings he pitched, Garcia stood strong with the posture not of a young pitcher, but a seasoned veteran.

As I said several time in the offseason, I think this is Jaime's breakout year.

Matheny's different managing style really caters to guys like Garcia. In 2011, LaRussa had a short leash on Garcia through much of the season. When the trouble got thick, he was pulled.

Wednesday evening as he would get into a jam, Matheny showed patience and confidence in his young left-hander.

Confidence is the key word.

Baseball is a very mental sport. Garcia having the chance to show his new manager what he is capable of can go a long way with him.

When a pitcher takes the mound knowing he will be pulled at the first inkling of trouble, he is far less likely to pull through a tough situation. This "ride it out" approach that Matheny has taken some of the time has really benefited several pitchers: Garcia, Boggs, Rzepczynski.

It still remains to be seen how that style will play out over the course of the season - the very long 162-game season.

One thing is for sure, though, he's off to a fine start.

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Another important note from Wednesday's game regards Rafael Furcal - You know, the shortstop most of us felt was paid too much and now appears to have been a better deal than a Big Mac on the $1 menu at McDonald's.

To refer to Furcal as being "on fire" doesn't really do him justice. For instance, he leads all of Major League Baseball with a total of nine three-hit games so far in 2012.

Furcal pieced together yet another three-hit night to raise his batting average to .370. He has been a true asset to this team and the first textbook-style lead-off man the Cardinals have had in years.

The 34-year-old Furcal is 54 for 146 on the season, but that's not the only way he is getting on base. He has 16 walks, seven stolen bases and one hit-by-pitch.

The job of the lead-off man is to get on base at all costs. He is to be on base so that when the big bats (Beltran, Holliday, Berkman, Craig, Freese) come up, he is there to be driven in and that is exactly what he has done. The fact that he is second in the National League in runs scored with 28 illustrates what a fine job he's done in the lineup's top spot.

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To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail cnoles@dailystatesman.com, call (573)624-4545, or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/

Follow him on Twitter @coreynoles



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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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