Tom Koehler turned in a strong start for the Miami Marlins, who took a three-game winning streak into the start of a six-game road trip Friday night.
That streak is now over, though, because Jaime Garcia pitched even better.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ left-hander took a shutout into the ninth inning to outduel Koehler and lead the NL Central leaders to a 3-1 win in front of 42,025 fans at Busch Stadium. Garcia held the Marlins to one unearned run, six hits and one walk with six strikeouts in 8.1 innings, and Trevor Rosenthal recorded the final two outs while stranding the potential tying run at first base.
Koehler was nearly as good for the Marlins (46-69), especially early on. The 28-year-old right-hander held the Cardinals (74-41) to two runs and five hits with two strikeouts and one walk in seven innings, keeping them scoreless until the fifth.
“Tom did his job. It was just unfortunate we couldn’t give him any runs tonight,” Marlins center fielder Cole Gillespie said. “He pitched his butt off.”
Koehler fell to 8-10 this year despite making his best start since July 23, when he pitched seven shutout innings in a win at San Diego. But he couldn’t quite match Garcia, who improved to 5-4 while flirting with his first complete game and first shutout of the season.
Gillespie, who stretched his career-high hitting streak to five games and has multiple hits in all of them, helped end that shutout bid in the ninth. He greeted Rosenthal with a single to right fielder Jason Heyward, whose subsequent fielding error allowed Derek Dietrich to score the Marlins’ only run.
Miami right fielder Ichiro Suzuki reached a milestone of sorts in the top of the fifth, slapping a two-out single down the left-field line for his 4,191st hit as a professional baseball player. That matched the career mark of Hall of Famer Ty Cobb, who had all of his hits in the major leagues.
The 41-year-old Ichiro had 1,278 hits in Japan and now has 2,913 hits during his 15-year MLB career with the Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees and Marlins.
“Hall of Famer. Plain and simple, he’s a Hall of Famer,” Marlins manager Dan Jennings said. “He continues to defy age, he gives you tremendous at-bats, he ranges in the outfield. He’s got to be one of the most prepared players in this era.”
Cardinals leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter finished with two hits, and both were critical. He greeted Miami lefty Mike Dunn with a leadoff homer to center in the eighth, which made it 3-0, and broke the scoreless tie in the fifth with a two-out single on a suicide squeeze bunt.
Mark Reynolds had doubled off the center-field wall with one out and advanced to third base on a groundout to second. Carpenter then dropped down a perfectly placed bunt on the left side, reaching safely without a throw to first and driving in Reynolds with the game’s first run.
Koehler said the bunt caught him by surprise.
“But he’s a good player, he’s a smart player, and he’s going to look for any chance he can,” Koehler said. “It was a nothing-nothing game right there in the fifth, so it’s a great play. Can’t really do much about it.”
The Cardinals added an insurance run in the seventh when Randal Grichuk doubled to lead off and scored when Reynolds singled through a drawn-in infield with one out. Carpenter than made it 3-0 with his 18th homer leading off the eighth.
Koehler’s pitching and the defense behind him helped the Marlins keep it close early. Dietrich and Gillespie both made running, backhanded catches in the outfield, while Adeiny Hechavarria and Dee Gordon made diving stops in the middle of the infield.
Hechavarria, the shortstop, made what might have been the defensive play of the game in the third. He chased down a Kolten Wong popup along the left-field line, making a sliding, over-the-shoulder snag.
“Defensively I thought we made some outstanding plays, certainly [Hechavarria] ranging down the line to catch that popup,” Jennings said. “Then the two guys in the middle all night just made play after play.”
Garcia made good pitch after good pitch for the Cardinals, though, which kept the Marlins’ offense in check all night and ultimately ended their winning streak.