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ARI@STL: Freese jacks a two-run blast in the third

ST. LOUIS -- Jaime Garcia and David Freese sent the Cardinals into the All-Star break on a positive note.

Garcia allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings to win his third straight start, and Freese's two-run homer in the third inning was the difference as St. Louis defeated Arizona, 4-2, on Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium to earn a split of the four-game series.

"We lost the first two, and you can kind of pack it in or you can battle back, and it shows how this team is different this year, the way we battled back and won the last two," Freese said.

The Cardinals (49-43) go into the break tied with the Brewers, who beat the Reds, 4-3, on Sunday, for the top spot in the National League Central.

"It's a big win for the team," Garcia said. "It was really hot out there, a tough day for everybody who played out there, but it's a big win. I'm happy for that."

St. Louis scored twice in the first inning.

Rookie right fielder Tony Cruz, who was playing the outfield for his first time as a professional, reached base with a one-out infield single. After Albert Pujols scorched a double to the left-field wall, Matt Holliday scored Cruz with a single to center, and Freese sent home Pujols with a sacrifice fly to center field.

The D-backs answered in the second inning with a two-run homer to left field by third baseman Ryan Roberts, his 11th of the season.

"It was a mistake," Garcia said. "The location wasn't very bad, but I threw a four-seamer and then my sinker. You learn from that. [There was] that one and another mistake, a couple of walks, but other than that, I felt pretty good. I was battling out there, trying to give us a chance."

Said manager Tony La Russa: "He made one mistake, and it cost two runs. But if you make [only] one mistake when you are out there, that's outstanding."

Freese put the Cardinals ahead, 4-2, in the third inning with a two-out, two-run, opposite-field homer into the bullpen in right field for his third homer of the season and the eighth of his career.

"Me and [hitting coach Mark McGwire] and [bench coach Mike Aldrete] had about a 20-minute talk today about me just being me and not trying to prove I can do this and do that, and just put an 'A' swing on it and letting things happen," said Freese, who finished the game with two hits and three RBIs.

"He's a very good RBI [producer]," La Russa said. "He uses the whole field. He handles different pitches. If we can keep him healthy, he'll drive in a lot of big runs in the second half."

Garcia (9-3) allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings, striking out five and walking two. The 25-year-old lefty improved to 6-1 with a 1.14 ERA at Busch this season and 13-6 at home in his career.

"What Jaime has done since he came into this league is phenomenal," Freese said. "I just saw some stats on the TV about him compared to lefties since the start of 2010, and it's remarkable. I don't think he really knows how good he is. Maybe that's a good thing, because his work ethic is phenomenal."

The Cardinals weren't able to scratch out another run off D-backs left-hander Zach Duke -- who allowed four runs on nine hits over six innings -- or righty reliever Aaron Heilman, but it didn't matter.

Garcia and young right-handers Lance Lynn and Fernando Salas made the two-run lead hold up for the final six innings.

Lynn, who tossed a clean eighth inning during Saturday's victory, allowed just two hits in the seventh and eighth innings on Sunday and handed the lead to closer Salas in the ninth.

Salas surrendered a two-out single to pinch-hitter Stephen Drew, but struck out Miguel Montero to end the game and record his 16th save in 18 opportunities.

"Lance has been doing a great job since he came up, and he's been helping us a lot," Garcia said. "Salas, he's been doing it all year. That's one thing. As a starter, with our bullpen the way they are pitching right now, you know if you have a lead and you get through the seventh, sixth, there's a really good chance you're going to win it." Comments