December 5, 2022

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Without his best stuff, Garcia provides length

4 min read

TORONTO — The growing pains are far from over for Luis Garcia

For a second consecutive start, the sophomore righty allowed a pair of home runs to former-Astro George Springer to obfuscate an otherwise solid outing, shouldering the 2-1 loss against the Blue Jays to even the three-game series on Saturday at Rogers Centre.

Garcia, the runner-up in the American League Rookie of the Year voting last season, has shown valuable endurance and flashes of greatness in his four starts of 2022. But he’s also observing that his best pitches aren’t always going to yield the expected results in the big leagues — especially when facing hitters of Springer’s caliber.

“I knew since the first inning that my stuff wasn’t the best,” said Garcia after the game. “So, I just tried to compete all the way.”

Garcia went six solid innings — his two earned runs coming on the solo shots from Springer — with five hits, one walk and five strikeouts, lowering his season ERA to 4.15. When looking at those numbers, manager Dusty Baker didn’t share Garcia’s opinion on his game.

“Luis was throwing great outside of the two home runs to George,” said Baker. “Neither one of them was that bad of a pitch. Sometimes, the hitters get you.” 

Both of Springer’s solo shots came on Garcia’s cutters, a pitch that hadn’t resulted in any home runs this season and had held opponents to a .071 batting average entering Saturday. 

The former Astros star did away with those numbers in a hurry. 

“Any time you can get the first guy even on base in an inning, it allows guys to hit the way they want to hit,” Springer said after the game. “It’s a good spot. You always like to be up, 1-0, but any time you can get to first base to start an inning is huge.”

Springer took Garcia’s seventh pitch of the day deep to left-center field — a full-count cutter for his 46th career leadoff homer to the Blue Jays an early lead. 

He then did it again in his next at-bat in the third inning, driving a Garcia cutter to left-center.

“He’s excellent at hitting breaking balls,” said Garcia. “I just have to execute it better. It was good, but if it’s better, it’s not a homer.”

Garcia’s latest performance was reminiscent of his last start, which was also against the Blue Jays, in which he struck out six batters but allowed two homers and five earned runs on his way to a no-decision. The four home runs allowed across his last two starts have been an odd new development, since keeping the ball in the park wasn’t that big of an issue for Garcia through his 28 regular-season starts last year.

The 25-year-old ended last season with an average of 1.1 homers allowed per nine innings, a mark that’s already creeping up to 2 this year. 

On the flipside, Garcia has continued to progress with his fastball and cutter, getting some groundouts and double plays in the process. Identifying early in the game that his velocity wasn’t at its best, the righty mixed and matched with a few changeups, curveballs and sliders, making the most of his wide pitching arsenal. 

His six innings of work were also strongly appreciated as the Astros navigate a stretch of 33 games in 34 days.

“Our bullpen wasn’t overworked today,” said Baker. “We lost the game, but we saved our bullpen.” 

Garcia didn’t get much run support from Astros hitters, either, with their sole run of the day coming on a Yordan Alvarez solo shot off Blue Jays starter José Berríos in the fourth frame — his sixth of the year that extended his hitting streak to seven games. Houston went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base as Berríos put together one of his best performances all season.

It was an educational outing for Garcia — one with trepidations but plenty of opportunities for development for a pitcher who has yet to regain the dominant form that garnered Rookie Of The Year votes last season. 

“In this one, my result was better than the last one,” Garcia said. “So, I don’t know. I just want to keep doing my thing. That’s what I’ve basically learned. To stick to what I’m doing, because it’s going good.”

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