The Astros hoped to get Garcia, who made his postseason debut, at least one time through the Rays' lineup before unleashing the rest of their bullpen, which should have everyone available except perhaps Cristian Javier (35 pitches in Game 4).
Garcia allowed no hits in his two innings, but he walked two and hit a batter to load the bases in the second, escaping the jam on a deep flyout by Mike Zunino. Garcia hadn't pitched since throwing one-third of an inning on Sept. 27 and hadn't thrown more than two innings since a five-inning outing Sept. 9, his second big league game.
Baker said Garcia is a strike-thrower whose changeup can combat Tampa Bay’s lefties. Opposing hitters were batting .111 (1-for-9) with three strikeouts against Garcia’s changeup (47.6 percent whiff rate) and 0-for-5 with three strikeouts against his slider (60 percent whiff rate).
“We figure that he can handle it with the stuff that he has and that [catcher Martín Maldonado] can guide him at least through the lineup one time,” Baker said. “It’s either one rookie or another one. So through the process of elimination and a lot of talk between all of us, we decided on Luis Garcia.”
Garcia hadn’t pitched above the Class A level prior to this year and wasn’t even in big league camp with the Astros, but he was one of 10 rookie pitchers Houston had to press into action because of so many injuries to its pitching staff. He showed flashes in five appearances (one start) during the regular season, with a 2.92 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP over 12 1/3 innings.