ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa batted the pitcher eighth to boost the St. Louis offense. Quickly shedding awful spring numbers, Jaime Garcia needed very little help.
The 24-year-old left-hander looked nothing like the kid saddled with a 6.26 spring ERA, throwing a four-hitter with a career-best nine strikeouts as St. Louis avoided a season-opening sweep at home with a 2-0 victory over the San Diego Padres on Sunday.
"I knew my arm felt good, physically I felt great and mentally felt like I was where I wanted it to be," Garcia said. "I wasn't concerned at all. I knew I had the stuff."
Yadier Molina's RBI single up the middle off Dustin Moseley (0-1) in the fifth inning was the difference for St. Louis, which hasn't been swept by the Padres at home since 1980. More important, the Cardinals got their first victory.
"You've got to get off zero," La Russa said. "Over the long season if your record's good enough it's going to reflect it. But you don't want to walk around with an anvil on your back."
Moseley allowed only four hits in seven strong innings for San Diego, which missed a chance to open 3-0 for only the fourth time in franchise history and the first time since the 1984 team that went on to win the NL pennant. The right-hander is filling in for Mat Latos, on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder injury, to start the year.
"We had a good plan and we stuck with it and it worked out for me," said Moseley, whose career best is 7 1/3 innings. "[Garcia] was just better. I was throwing everything for strikes, just mixing it up.
"You've got to, they've got a good lineup."
Garcia (1-0) walked two in his second career shutout and the majors' first this season, needing only 102 pitches in a game that lasted 2 hours, 3 minutes.
Garcia struck out the side in the second against the 4-5-6 hitters. Starting with Chris Denorfia's double-play ball in the seventh, the left-hander retired his final eight hitters. He was pitching so well that La Russa let Garcia bat after Skip Schumaker's leadoff single in the eighth, and the Cardinals got an insurance run despite Garcia striking out on a bunt attempt.
The Padres loaded the bases with one out in the sixth on two hits and a walk, including Moseley's first career hit, before Ryan Ludwick lined out softly to third for a double play as Moseley strayed off the bag.
"Just a bonehead move," Moseley said. "The whole time I'm telling myself, 'Be careful here, get back, Molina's got a good arm.' "
Garcia was third in NL Rookie of Year voting last season after going 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA even though the Cardinals shut him down in mid-September as a precaution, given he didn't pitch much the previous year coming off elbow surgery. He was 1-3 with a 6.26 ERA in six starts in spring training, including a March 24 flop in which he yielded 14 hits and 10 runs in four innings against the Mets.
Lance Berkman singled to begin the fifth and advanced on a groundout before Molina stroked a single through the box, halting a 1-for-9 start. Berkman was the Cardinals' only runner in scoring position against Moseley.
The Padres' last sweep against the Cardinals was in 1995 in San Diego and they haven't beaten the Cardinals three straight since 2006. Their last season-opening sweep was a two-gamer in 1984 at home against the Pirates. They haven't opened the season with a three-game sweep since April 8-10, 1969, their inaugural season, at home against the Houston Astros.
The game was the second-fastest at 6-year-old Busch Stadium, trailing only a 3-1 Cardinals victory in 1:54 over the Pirates on Sept. 9, 2006. ... The Padres' 11-3 victory Saturday was their first time scoring in double digits at St. Louis since Aug. 29, 2001. ... Padres OF Eric Patterson, on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, played outfield for the first time Sunday and LHP Joe Thatcher (shoulder) threw off a bullpen mound on Saturday. ... The teams combined for 11 hits, all singles.