Jaime Garcia's gem keys Cards; Yadier Molina gets 1,000th career hit

ST. LOUIS -- Jaime Garcia has always been a better pitcher at Busch Stadium than on the road. The New York Mets saw just how much better the lefty can be.

Garcia carried a shutout into the eighth inning and Yadier Molina got his 1,000th career hit with an infield single that started a three-run second against rookie Matt Harvey in the St. Louis Cardinals' 5-1 victory Tuesday night.

For his career, Garcia is 18-11 with a 2.42 ERA at home, and 13-11 with a 4.59 ERA on the road. The disparity is more than three earned runs per game this year, 2.63 vs. 5.80.

"You don't ignore trends. Statistics are what they are, it's data," manager Mike Matheny said. "But there's no great explanation for it because he has good stuff.

"He has better than good stuff -- he has great stuff."

Asked twice about the comforts of home after the game, Garcia had little to offer.

"It's part of the game sometimes," he said. "Sometimes, you feel good at home. But I don't know."

Daniel Descalso and David Freese had two hits and an RBI apiece for the Cardinals, who are 42-26 at home for the second-best mark in the National League. St. Louis will go for a three-game sweep Wednesday with Adam Wainwright facing 17-game winner R.A. Dickey.

The defending World Series champions have a slim lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL's second wild card.

Descalso botched a double-play grounder in the eighth but also stole third in the sixth, putting him in position to score on John Jay's groundout against Justin Hampson that made it 4-0.

Pinch-hitter Mike Baxter hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly off Lance Lynn in the eighth. Left fielder Adron Chambers, who ran for Matt Holliday in the seventh, caught Daniel Murphy's drive at the left-field wall to end the threat and then bounced into the fence in front of the visitors' bullpen.

"That's that football coming out of me," said Chambers, a former defensive back at Southern Mississippi. "I was glad I was able to make that play, give me another opportunity to see what I can do."

Holliday left the game with lower back tightness after walking to start the seventh. The Cardinals said Holliday, among the league leaders with 92 RBIs, was day to day.

"It just tightened up," Matheny said. "So we'll re-evaluate tomorrow."

Garcia (4-6) gave up an unearned run in 7 1/3 innings for his first victory in five decisions since May 16 and first in four starts since coming off the disabled list. He was sidelined for 64 games by a shoulder strain.

In two home starts since then he's allowed one run in 15 1/3 innings while going 0-2 on the road and giving up 10 runs in 11 1/3 innings. Garcia is 2-2 at home with a 2.63 ERA this year and 2-4 with a 5.80 ERA on the road.

Molina got a prolonged ovation after barely beating David Wright's throw on a slow roller up the third base line for his milestone hit. The Cardinals added three more singles by Freese, Skip Schumaker and Descalso to open the inning.

"He hung a couple of breaking balls up," Mets manager Terry Collins said about Harvey. "They spray it around. They're a good-hitting club."

That was the only spot of trouble for Harvey, the Mets' 2010 first-round draft pick, whose five-inning stint matched the shortest of his eight career starts. His string of four consecutive quality starts was the Mets' best in a single season by a rookie since Jae Seo had six straight in 2003.

"I'm not happy about it," Harvey said. "I've got to go out there, go deeper in the game. I've got to get quicker outs, keep the pitch counts down, and I didn't do that tonight.

"I should have been better."

Harvey (3-4) has thrown 157 1/3 innings this season, including 110 for Triple-A Buffalo, and may have only one left because the Mets don't want to overload the 24-year-old right-hander. They have scored just 16 runs while Harvey was in the game.

Collins said the Mets haven't made a final decision on Harvey's workload, but added: "There's not going to be many more."

Game notes
Garcia had three sacrifice bunts after entering the game with one in his first 14 starts. ... Retired Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart and Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis threw out first pitches. Laurinaitis left shortly after his appearance to study film for Sunday's opener at Detroit. ... RHP Jeurys Familia, among the Mets' call-ups, worked a scoreless eighth in his major league debut.