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Cardinals' Jaime Garcia hopes to make Mexico proud

October 19, 2011 | 10:26 pm

Jaime3When left-hander Jaime Garcia takes the ball for the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday, he will become the first pitcher born in Mexico to start in a World Series since the Dodgers' Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.

And though Garcia said Wednesday that the distinction is an honor, it was not something he was shooting for.

"I just found out yesterday," Garcia, who was born in the border town of Reynosa but grew up in Texas, said of the milestone. "I'm thrilled to hear that and I'm going to go out there and represent the team, my family and not only my hometown, but the whole country of Mexico."

He might have to do a lot to match Valenzuela's performance. In his only World Series appearance, Valenzuela pitched a complete game and beat the New York Yankees in a series the Dodgers won in six games.

Be it ever so humble ...

Garcia got the Game 2 start partly based on his statistics in home games, which include a 9-4 record and an earned-run average of 2.55, more than two runs lower than his road ERA.

"He's pitched well at home, so you go with that," Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa said. "There isn't any reason why he can't pitch well on the road. He's got that kind of composure. But when you're trying to find an edge, that's one of the angles you play."

The Texas Rangers apparently are playing same angle, since Garcia will be opposed by right-hander Colby Lewis, who went 9-5 on the road with a 3.43 ERA, more than two runs lower than his home mark.

"Things change year to year," said Lewis, who had a better home ERA last season. "I'm not really worried about it."

What Lewis is excited about, however, is the opportunity to hit. In seven big league seasons, all in the American League, he has 16 at-bats. And his only appearance in last year's World Series loss to the San Francisco Giants came in Texas, where the designated hitter was used.

"I'm looking forward to that," said Lewis, who has three career hits. "I'm an athlete. I am going to go up and have fun and try to put the bat on the ball and situational hit if I have to.

"We practiced a little bit on it. I don’t know. It’s fun."

Talking about Pujols

When Albert Pujols won the National League rookie-of-the-year award in 2001, La Russa called him the best player he had seen. Pujols has only gotten better since then, so La Russa was asked if that makes him a once-in-a-lifetime talent.

"I heard Reggie Jackson say this one time years ago when somebody was asking about Aaron or Mays or Musial, and he said, 'If you're in the conversation, that's enough.' Well, Albert is in the conversation," La Russa said.

"I can't tell you what a privilege it is to watch this guy for 11 years, the way he plays the game and the way he is off the field."

La Russa might not be watching Pujols much longer -- at least not up close. The manager's and the first baseman's end when the World Series does. 

Short hops

With rain falling intermittently throughout the day Wednesday, the tarp was not removed from the Busch Stadium infield until less than two hours before game time, preventing both teams from taking batting practice on the field. ... The Rangers and Cardinals have met just once previously, in an interleague series in Texas in 2004. The Cardinals won two of the three games in that series.


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Photo: Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia. Credit: Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images