CINCINNATI (AP) — Jaime Garcia's 40th win in the majors will always be special. It took a lot of hard work and more than a year to get it.
The left-hander took another step in his comeback from shoulder surgery by getting a win on Saturday night, and Yadier Molina homered again in the city where he's always booed, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 6-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
The Cardinals evened their series at a game apiece. St. Louis has won nine of the last 10 series between the NL Central rivals.
Garcia (1-0) made his second start since recovering from surgery on his labrum and rotator cuff last May. He gave up six hits and a pair of runs in 5 2-3 innings, fanning seven and retiring 12 batters in a row over one span.
Although he would have liked to have stayed in the game longer, it was encouraging to get a long-awaited victory behind his name.
"I didn't go as deep as I wanted to," said Garcia, who threw 55 strikes out of 75 pitches. "But it's a big win for me, for the team. Obviously I'm excited to go out there and feel healthy."
His first five innings were very encouraging.
"He had exactly what we were hoping to have, right from the top," manager Mike Matheny said. "He just couldn't stay in the game longer."
Ryan Ludwick homered in the ninth off Jason Motte. Trevor Rosenthal came on with two outs and fanned Todd Frazier with two runners aboard for his 15th save in 17 chances.
Molina hit a solo shot off left-hander Tony Cingrani (2-4), who has lost both of his starts since returning from the disabled list. Cingrani, who had shoulder tendinitis, has given up eight runs and 14 hits in 12 innings his last two times out.
Molina also homered off Johnny Cueto for a 1-0 win on opening day in Cincinnati. Two of his five homers have come at Great American Ball Park, where he is booed by fans who remember his 2010 brawl at home plate with second baseman Brandon Phillips.
"I tell them to keep booing — just to myself," Matheny said. "It seems the louder they get, the better he gets."
Jon Jay, a late addition to the Cardinals lineup, had three hits and drove in a pair of runs.
St. Louis was forced to change its bullpen and its lineup before the game.
Left-handed reliever Kevin Siegrist went on the 15-day disabled list with strained pitching forearm. Left-hander Sam Freeman was called up from Triple-A to take his spot.
Center fielder Peter Bourjos was scratched from the lineup less than half an hour before the first pitch because of a stomach virus, prompting Matheny to change three spots in the batting order. Jay, who wasn't in the original lineup, took Bourjos' place in center.
The sixth inning proved pivotal, with second baseman Mark Ellis playing a role in both halves.
The Cardinals loaded the bases with a single and a pair of walks, and Ellis hit a sacrifice fly to the wall in center. Jay singled home another run for a 4-1 lead.
Phillips doubled home a run in the bottom of the inning, leaving runners on second and third. Ellis jumped and caught Devin Mesoraco's liner, helping Garcia hold the lead and stay on course for his first victory since May 17 last year.
"An unbelievable play," Garcia said. "A game-changer right there."
The Cardinals dugout couldn't believe Ellis got the ball.
"The way I saw it, it looked like he had no chance when the ball left the bat," Matheny said. "I'm still surprised. It looked like he jumped twice his height."
NOTES: Adam Wainwright (7-2) tries to become the NL's first eight-game winner in the series finale. He's 6-9 with a 4.75 career ERA against Cincinnati. Mike Leake (2-3) starts for the Reds. ... 3B Matt Carpenter extended his hitting streak to six games. ... Reds RHP Mat Latos is expected to make his first rehab start at Triple-A Louisville on Sunday. He hasn't pitched all season because of torn knee cartilage and a strained forearm. The Reds want him to make at least three rehab starts before they'll consider activating him. ... RF Jay Bruce has gone 1 for 8 with four strikeouts in two games since returning from surgery to repair knee cartilage.
Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay