Garcia's role in rotation magnified

Reliance on starters could heighten as Houston reportedly deals Odorizzi for reliever Smith

August 2nd, 2022

HOUSTON -- A lot of the focus Monday night was centered around the trades the Astros made before the game -- acquiring outfielder Trey Mancini and catcher Cristian Vázquez -- but a lot of attention turned to the pitching, including Monday’s starter Luis Garcia.

It was long rumored that due to their pitching depth, the Astros were shopping one of their starting pitchers -- with Jake Odorizzi and José Urquidy the most likely to be dealt. It seemed that may have come true, as it was reported that Odorizzi was traded to the Braves for lefty reliever Will Smith.’s Mark Feinsand reported the Astros traded Odorizzi, and KRIV-TV in Houston reported the deal was for Smith. The team has not confirmed the deal, but if it is made official, it may force Garcia to a bigger role. The Astros will likely return to a five-man rotation, pending the return of right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. from the injured list later this month.

Garcia continues to evolve his game, as he surpassed 100 innings after going seven innings, allowing three runs on six hits in the Astros’ 3-2 loss to the Red Sox at Minute Maid Park.

“He was good except for [when he faced Jarren] Duran,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said.

Garcia has impressed since he arrived in the Majors in 2020. He made a name for himself in his 2021 campaign, as he finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting after posting a 3.48 ERA with 167 strikeouts in 155 1/3 innings.

The success has carried over to this season, seeing improvement in a few categories -- WHIP (1.18 in 2021 to 1.07 this season), opponents’ batting average (.232 to .208) and OPS allowed (.688 to .662) -- though the ‘21 numbers include his performance toward the end of the season.

This season, Garcia has shown he has room to grow as he's showed many ups -- throwing an immaculate inning against the Rangers on July 15 -- and lows -- three starts going fewer than five innings. He has been inconsistent at times, as he can go from a five-game streak of winning decisions to losing to the rebuilding A’s in his last start, in which he allowed four runs off of four hits in 5 2/3 innings.

The struggles seemed to carry over on Monday against the Red Sox as Duran produced three runs off of Garcia -- an RBI double in the third inning and a two-run homer in the fifth -- handing Garcia his seventh loss of the season. It may not be shocking that he struggled against Duran, a left-handed hitter, given in his career splits: He has dominated against right-handed hitters -- holding them to a .188 batting average -- vs. .254 against lefties entering Monday.

Duran was not Garcia’s only problem on Monday as the righty had issues with his cutter. The inability to throw the pitch forced him to rely on his other pitches. 

“It was so difficult,” Garcia said. “I’m glad I was able to make it to seven innings. I have to work on getting back to where I was with my cutter. It’s what I learned from today’s outing.”

With Monday’s seven-inning outing, Garcia has now logged 106 1/3 innings on the season, and he could pass last season’s career-high mark of 155 1/3 innings. 

The workload will only ramp up for Garcia, considering the Astros are going to a five-man rotation and poised to make another long playoff run. 

“I feel great,” Garcia said. “I’m happy about [reaching the 100-inning mark], and I just want to keep doing what I did today.”

The Astros will need Garcia to continue his progression, especially if Odorizzi is on the move, as it could mean each starter’s role will be elevated post-Trade Deadline. 

Garcia has the experience -- including the postseason -- and talent, but he needs to put it all together for the Astros to succeed in their mission.