HOUSTON -- Much like Framber Valdez did for the Astros in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series in Boston, right-hander Luis Garcia bounced back from a shaky outing earlier in the series and pitched a gem against the Red Sox.
Garcia, who recorded three outs in a loss in Game 2 in Houston, threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball in the Astros’ 5-0 win over the Red Sox in Game 6 on Friday night at Minute Maid Park. He was pulled after giving up a two-out triple to Kiké Hernández in the sixth inning. He walked one batter and struck out seven while throwing 76 pitches.
“I was really happy because they said that I was going to start this game,” Garcia said. “I wanted to pitch so bad.”
Garcia tied Brandon Backe with the longest no-hit bid in Astros playoff history at 5 2/3 innings. Backe threw 5 2/3 hitless innings in Game 4 of the 2004 National League Division Series against the Braves. It was also the second-longest no-hit bid by a rookie in postseason history, trailing the 7 1/3 hitless innings that Michael Wacha threw for St. Louis in Game 4 of the 2013 NLDS.
“Lights-out,” bench coach Joe Espada said. “He commanded his fastball, used his cutter, controlled the strike zone. You saw the velo, 97 [mph]. Just complete control of the game. [Catcher Martín] Maldonado had a great game plan and he stuck to the game plan, executed pitches and was just awesome. We needed that and we got it.”
After admitting that he had been pitching with a knee strain in his last start, Garcia changed the mechanics in his lower body and came out throwing heat. He threw eight pitches of at least 97 mph, which is six more than he had thrown in his previous 2,603 pitches in 2021 entering Friday. He previously touched 97 on July 20.
“Nasty,” shortstop Carlos Correa said. “When I saw he was throwing 97, hitting the corners…the cutter was at 88, I said, 'It’s going to be a tough night for the hitters.' We just needed to score a few runs. It was a special performance by him.”
Astros pitching coach Brent Strom said the program with Garcia in Game 6 was to focus on getting the right-handers in Boston’s lineup out, instead of the left-handers (Kyle Schwarber, Rafael Devers, Alex Verdugo), who have hit him better than right-handers this year.
“The left-handers are going to do what they’re going to do,” Strom said. “They’re good. His pitch mix works better against a righty than a lefty. He threw a couple of changeups tonight, which really helped, and he challenged with heaters, which forced the action. Then they started chasing some breaking balls underneath.”
The first 11 pitches Garcia threw were strikes, which set the tone for the game.
“He got amped up a little bit,” Maldonado said. “He was throwing strikes and that was a big part of it.”
The Astros opted to pull Garcia after the triple to Hernández, even though it was the first hit of the game, and turned the game over to a rested bullpen.
“I mean, I wanted to be there, still in the game, but it’s OK,” Garcia said. “I did the job, and that’s what the team wanted. So I’m happy.”