ATLANTA -- As Adonis Garcia sprinted down the left-field line and into foul territory, he was looking for more than just the final out in the Braves' 5-2 win over the Mets on Sunday at Turner Field.Twice already, the third baseman had ranged far to make a pair of over-the-shoulder
ATLANTA -- As Adonis Garcia sprinted down the left-field line and into foul territory, he was looking for more than just the final out in the Braves' 5-2 win over the Mets on Sunday at Turner Field.
Twice already, the third baseman had ranged far to make a pair of over-the-shoulder catches. So as he pursued his defensive hat trick, Brian Snitker just knew Garcia would accomplish the feat.
"After the first two," the Atlanta skipper said, "I was thinking, 'Wow, he's really going to top this day off now.'"
Unfortunately for Garcia, the foul ball fell just out of his grasp. But with two stellar defensive plays and a three-run home run already under his belt, the 31-year-old once again demonstrated his value both at the plate and in the field.
Garcia's first defensive gem came in the second inning, when he chased down a fly ball in foul territory and snagged it right at the railing before it landed in the seats. Then, in the ninth, he sprinted down the left-field line and made an over-the-shoulder sliding grab on a James Loney popup that would have landed just foul.
The plays demonstrated the progress Garcia has made defensively since the start of the year, when he made seven errors in his first 49 chances. His struggles earned him a demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett, where he primarily worked on playing left field.
But since returning to Atlanta, Garcia has shown he can man the hot corner, having made only two errors in 59 chances at third base.
"This is a game you don't get where a guy goes down to play left field and comes back up to play third base and starts playing like he is," Freddie Freeman said. "But it's a crazy game. He's been huge."
After Sunday's win, Garcia attributed his defensive improvement to better footwork and greater concentration. But the support he's received from the coaching staff has played the most important role.
"A big thing that's really helped me out has just been the confidence I've gotten from the coaches," said Garcia through a translator. "Like [Terry Pendleton] and [Snitker] showing confidence in me and having my back to go out there. That helps a lot."
The Braves have also benefited from Garcia's recent success at the plate. With his three-run home run to put the game out of reach in the eighth, he's now hitting .333 (16-for-48) with four homers and 11 RBIs in his past 13 games.
And while his third baseman couldn't complete the defensive hat trick, Snitker recognized Garcia's work ethic as the foundation of his success.
"He's really trying hard," Snitker said. "He's conscientious about what he's doing and he's getting some big hits. He's a very aggressive player, offensively and defensively. It's good to see him out there as a major contributor of ours."
Pat James is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.