ST. LOUIS -- Carlos Villanueva's most important contribution may have been at the plate.
The Toronto Blue Jays' right-hander worked six solid innings in a 6-3 victory over the sagging St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night. He also drew a leadoff walk in the third, setting the stage for a five-run rally capped by Juan Rivera's three-run home run.
Villanueva (5-1) is a career .078 hitter with three RBIs in 64 at-bats.
"Well, you know I'm not the best hitter, but what I try to do is make him throw as many pitches as possible," Villanueva said. "I know when I'm out there I don't want to go into deep counts with the pitcher, because it just gets your pitch count up.
"A couple of close pitches went my way and we had a productive inning," he said.
Jaime Garcia (6-3) kept his home ERA at a minuscule 0.88 -- best in the major leagues -- because four of the runs in Toronto's big inning were unearned due to third baseman Daniel Descalso's two-out throwing error. But the left-hander surrendered Rivera's sixth homer the next at-bat and walked three in the inning, including Jose Bautista intentionally to load the bases.
Rivera said Garcia got him on a flyout with a changeup in the second inning. The next time, he punished a changeup.
"That was my plan going to the plate," Rivera said. "Any time a pitcher gets me out with one pitch, I try to look for that pitch."
Garcia had four strikeouts and four walks, one off his season high, in seven innings.
"The last thing you want to do is walk the pitcher, especially for an American League team," Garcia said. "Their pitchers don't hit. What's he going to do?"
Edwin Encarnacion homered off Ryan Franklin's first pitch in the ninth and Aaron Hill added two hits and a walk for Toronto, which clinched the series win right after getting swept at Atlanta. Reliever Frank Francisco's two-out throwing error in the ninth gave the Cardinals an unearned run. St. Louis had the tying run at the plate before Ryan Theriot grounded out.
Theriot and Jon Jay had two hits apiece for the Cardinals, who have lost 11 of 14 and are 1-4 minus injured Albert Pujols. Matt Holliday was ejected for arguing a called third strike with two on and none out in the eighth and the next batter, Lance Berkman, grounded into an inning-ending double play against Marc Rzepczynski.
The Cardinals lost only their second series to an AL East opponent, the other coming in a sweep at the New York Yankees in 2003.
Garcia followed the walk to Villanueva with another walk to leadoff man Yunel Escobar. Adam Lind had a sacrifice fly to tie it at 1 the at-bat before Descalso made a diving stop on J.P. Arencibia's smash down the line but made a throw that forced Berkman to leap high above first base to snare the throw, and Berkman appeared to land on the bag about the same time as Arencibia's foot.
"I thought it was a real bang-banger, a banger, bang-bang," manager Tony La Russa said. "Lance thought he had him. I can't tell."
Rivera had been in a 2-for-12 slump and had totaled five RBIs this month before homering on a 1-0 pitch.
New Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith threw out the first pitch, well wide of the plate, then had the ball autographed by Cardinals pitcher Kyle McClellan. ... Blue Jays manager John Farrell used all of his bench players Friday night. Toronto went to 12 pitchers to add flexibility during the interleague schedule. "Given the way the eighth and ninth innings unfolded we took our shot every opportunity that arose to try to push across a run," Farrell said. ... Garcia totaled five walks his previous four starts. ... Holliday was ejected for the first time since Sept. 9, 2010, at Atlanta. ... Four of Rivera's six homers have come with the bases empty, and the other was a two-run shot April 25 at Texas.