His teammates gave him little chance to win.
Jacob deGrom retired his final 23 batters following a first-inning single, and Lucas Duda hit two long homers to nearly the same spot Thursday during the New York Mets' 5-0 victory over Garcia and the Cardinals.
"I'm here. I'm going to compete. I'm going to continue to have the best possible attitude and continue to do my work and whatever I need every single day to be ready for my start," Garcia said.
Making his first big league appearance since June 20, the 28-year-old lefty walked five and flirted with danger all day. But he limited the damage to two runs in seven innings, thanks in large part to four double plays turned behind him.
"I got outs when I needed to get outs, big situations, but unfortunately that wasn't good enough," he said.
Garcia won 13 games in both 2010 and 2011, helping the Cardinals to a World Series title four years ago. But injuries have derailed his promising career, and he had been sidelined since having thoracic outlet surgery last July to alleviate numbness and tingling in his pitching arm and hand.
Activated from the disabled list before the game, Garcia is the latest St. Louis starter getting a chance to fill the rotation spot that opened when ace Adam Wainwright sustained a season-ending Achilles injury last month
"He was very good today," manager Mike Matheny said. "Jaime's stuff looks right, so good to have him back."
The reigning NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom struck out 11 over eight dominant innings in another stingy start at Citi Field. The only blemish was Matt Carpenter's clean single with one out in the first.
"I knew we were cruising out there, that's for sure," Mets rookie catcher Kevin Plawecki said.
The shaggy-haired deGrom (5-4) never went to a three-ball count in his fifth double-digit strikeout game and first since Sept. 21 at Atlanta.
He is 10-1 with a 1.19 ERA over his past 12 starts at Citi Field, giving him a 1.50 ERA in 16 career home games.
"He didn't just do it with his fastball, but his fastball was pretty overpowering," Matheny said. "He had guys chasing it out of the zone, and the off-speed pitches were keeping them off balance."
Blown out the previous two nights, New York managed a four-game split in a series that matched the top two pitching staffs in the majors.
Michael Cuddyer had his first three-hit game of the season and also walked for a perfect day at the plate. John Mayberry Jr. put the slumping Mets lineup on the scoreboard with an RBI single in the fourth.
Duda's solo shot off Garcia (0-1) in the sixth cleared the shed-like canopy that shelters visiting relievers behind the 380-foot sign on the right-center fence.
The big slugger did it again in the eighth, hammering Randy Choate's only pitch for a three-run drive that came down on the canopy roof.
BY THE NUMBERS
Garcia threw 102 pitches. He entered 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA in four starts against the Mets, though he had not faced them since 2012.
To make room for Garcia, rookie reliever Sam Tuivailala was optioned to Triple-A Memphis. ... LF Matt Holliday, who has reached base safely in all 38 of his games this season, was rested in favor of Mark Reynolds. All-Star catcher Yadier Molina also got the day off.
Cardinals: RHP Lance Lynn (3-3, 2.96 ERA) starts Friday night against RHP Chris Young (3-0, 0.94) in the opener of a three-game interleague series at AL champion Kansas City. Lynn has won both his starts against AL Central teams this season, allowing one run in 13 1-3 combined innings vs. Cleveland and Detroit.
Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard (1-1, 3.18 ERA) makes his third major league start Friday night at Pittsburgh against RHP Gerrit Cole (5-2, 2.40) in a juicy matchup of hard-throwing youngsters with high expectations.