MINNEAPOLIS -- The Luis Garcia who has dazzled for the past month and who has shown he deserves a spot in the starting rotation proved to be very ordinary Saturday night. That should do very little to take away from his impressive body of work, though.
Garcia, who had won each of his previous five starts, delivered a dud in a 5-2 loss to the Twins at Target Field in which he lasted only 4 1/3 innings and gave up a career-high four runs (three earned) in his 12th career start. He had allowed only three runs in his previous three starts, a span of 19 innings.
“Not every day is the same,” Garcia said. “I think it’s just a matter of keep working and continuing to go forward.”
Garcia (5-4) couldn’t survive a fifth inning in which he gave up an RBI double by Ben Rortvedt and two-run homer to Jorge Polanco. Miguel Sanó hammered an RBI double in the fourth.
Garcia threw 54 of his 84 pitches for strikes, but lacked the elite stuff he’d shown for the past month.
“He couldn’t get his secondary pitches over,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He was having trouble locating his breaking ball. A lot of them were in the dirt. His changeup wasn’t as effective. After he bounced a couple of those breaking balls to Polanco, he centered one down the heart of the plate and he deposited it in the seats. Early in the game, he hung a breaking ball to Sanó and he hit it to the right-center-field fence. [Garcia] wasn’t as sharp with the secondary pitches.”
Garcia’s velocity was down a tad across the board, and he said his throat was still hurting from an illness that caused Baker to pull him Sunday against the Blue Jays after only 79 pitches. Having to rely more on his fastball on Saturday, he got only one swing-and-miss on the pitch.
“I don’t feel I had trouble with my pitches today,” he said. “I felt like it was OK, I think. I think it wasn’t my best outing."
Still, Garcia was 5-0 with a 1.86 ERA in his previous five starts, the kind of run that has the rookie in the hunt to remain in the rotation when Lance McCullers Jr. comes off the injured list next week. Baker said Garcia has saved the Astros’ pitching staff, which rings true considering he’s been a healthy and consistent starter amid a rash of injuries earlier this year.
“We needed him to go relatively deep in ballgames,” Baker said. “The young man has pitched well. He’s pitched very, very well. Tonight, he just didn’t have his secondary pitches, which turns you into a one-pitch pitcher if you can’t get your secondary pitches over. It doesn’t matter how hard you throw. You have to locate the fastball perfectly, especially if they’re sitting on your offspeed stuff and secondary pitches.”
Garcia’s experience as a reliever and his strike-throwing ability would help Houston’s bullpen, which has struggled in the past month. Even if he doesn’t remain in the rotation, Garcia is ready to keep taking the ball in whatever role is needed.
“It’s not my decision,” he said. “I just want to help the team, if it’s as a reliever or a starter. Do I deserve it? I don’t know. I just have to do my job.”