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07/15/10 6:43 PM ET

Garcia keeps emotions -- and batters -- in check

In a matchup of defending division champions, the Cardinals started the second half with a 7-1 victory over the Dodgers on Thursday in St. Louis.

Currently sitting a half-game behind the Reds in the National League Central, the Cardinals enter the stretch run with one of the Major League's best trio of starters.

On Thursday, Chris Carpenter pitched eight innings of one-run ball to move his record to 10-3. Jaime Garcia, arguably the NL's best rookie pitcher this season, will take the mound on Friday.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he's been impressed with the mental makeup of his 24-year-old southpaw.

"That's part of how you're going to succeed in this league," La Russa said. "It's just not stuff. You've really got to keep your emotions intact because there are a lot of distractions, a lot of potentially up-and-down emotional moments. It's a special quality. You don't see it often when you see it."

Even with his 2.17 ERA and 8-4 record, Garcia doesn't have the most impressive numbers on the staff. That distinction belongs to Adam Wainwright (13-5, 2.11), whom the Dodgers will face on Saturday.

Manny Ramirez's return from the disabled list on Thursday didn't go quite as planned for the Dodgers. He went 0-for-3 and had a lazy misplay in left field that sparked a two-run fourth inning from the Cardinals.

Los Angeles fell a half-game behind the Rockies for second place in the NL West and enters Friday's action trailing first-place San Diego by 2 1/2 games.

Dodgers: Johnson heads to DL
Los Angeles placed outfielder Reed Johnson on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with chronic lower back issues. Johnson, 33, is batting .291 with no home runs and seven RBIs in 127 at-bats this season.

Cardinals: Craig comes up from Triple-A
St. Louis called up outfielder Allen Craig from Triple-A Memphis on Thursday to replace Nick Stavinoha, who went to the 15-day DL with a strained right shoulder.

Worth noting
Former Dodgers and current Cardinals right-hander Brad Penny suffered a setback in his recovery from a strained right lat muscle before the All-Star break. "I would say that he will pitch again this season," general manager John Mozeliak said. "But eight weeks wrong today, it doesn't serve me well to try and guess again."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.