The Cardinals, yearning for some offensive traction, found some on Saturday while simultaneously halting the Blue Jays' roll of six straight wins to even this three-game Interleague Series. The rubber match between these clubs -- one a preseason postseason favorite, the other playing more like one -- will come at the Rogers Centre on Sunday.
Toronto on Saturday was shut out for just the second time this season but features an offense that is tough to contain for very long. That is the challenge presented to Jaime Garcia, who is coming off a start that opened with four scoreless innings before he was knocked out with a six-run fifth.
Garcia, who returned from a shoulder injury in May, insisted he was feeling physically fine.
"I didn't get the job done; it was unacceptable," Garcia said after his latest start. "I've got to go out there and do a better job than that."
Sunday will be Garcia's fifth start of the season and second career appearance in Toronto. He defeated the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre during a 2010 visit.
Opposing Garcia will be Blue Jays right-hander Drew Hutchison, who is coming off one of his better starts of the season. He allowed three hits over seven scoreless innings against the Tigers but received a no-decision. It was notable, too, that Hutchison's velocity returned following a few additional days of rest.
The right-hander is in his first season back from Tommy John surgery.
"The kid's good," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He's doing a heck of a job."
Hutchison will face a Cardinals offense that has been slow to get going of late. The Cardinals had scored just two runs in 21 innings before breaking out for a four-run eighth against Aaron Loup on Saturday. The Cardinals are also looking to end a skid of four consecutive winless series.
"We need some success. We need some runs," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We're going to have to keep grinding. It's not going to be easy."
For the Blue Jays, a win on Sunday would secure them a 16th win in their past 18 games.
Blue Jays: Encarnacion nearing return to first
Edwin Encarnacion is expected to make his return to first base for Sunday's series finale. Encarnacion hasn't played the field since he felt some tightness in his back during Wednesday's game in Detroit. The 31-year-old missed one game but returned at DH on Friday and Saturday.
The timing of Encarnacion's return to first is rather important because it will give the Blue Jays an opportunity to sit Adam Lind vs. Cardinals left-hander Garcia. Lind rarely plays vs. lefties but would most likely be pressed into duty if Encarnacion were unable to go.
Cardinals: Molina gets mental day
Yadier Molina is expected back in the Cardinals' lineup on Sunday after taking what Matheny described as a mental day off in the second game of this series. Molina has yet to catch in this series, as he served as the designated hitter on Friday.
Molina, while physically OK, has been grinding through his toughest offensive stretch of the season. He has hit .128 over the team's past 12 games, dropping his season average to .293 from .330.
"We've been trying to help him push and grind through this," Matheny said. "At some point, you have to take a break and take a breath. It's investing into the future. That adds to his frustration, too, because when things aren't going well, the first thing he wants to do is jump in and keep fighting."
• Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (sore left shoulder) has yet to appear in this series and is questionable for the series finale. The Cardinals still do not anticipate needing to move Wong to the 15-day disabled list.
• The Blue Jays have recorded at least one extra-base hit in nine consecutive games and 46 of their past 47. They entered play on Saturday with 170 extra-base hits this season, which was the best in the Major Leagues and 16 more than second-place Colorado.
• The Cardinals have stranded 39 runners on base in the first four games of this trip and 57 over the team's past seven games.
• Jose Reyes is on an eight-game hitting streak and has reached base in 32 of his past 34 games. He is hitting .313 (36-for-115) with eight doubles, two triples, one homer, 11 walks and nine stolen bases in his past 28 games.
• Toronto has held sole possession of first place in the American League East for 17 consecutive days. The most recent time the club had been alone in first for that long was in 1993 (June 24 until the end of the season). The last time Toronto was alone in first later than June 7 was July 6, 2000 (46-40, 1/2 game ahead).
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.