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Astros start rookie in win-or-go-home G5

@brianmctaggart
October 15, 2020

As expected, Astros manager Dusty Baker tabbed rookie right-hander Luis Garcia as his starting pitcher for Houston's 4-3 win over the Rays in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday at Petco Park in San Diego.

As expected, Astros manager Dusty Baker tabbed rookie right-hander Luis Garcia as his starting pitcher for Houston's 4-3 win over the Rays in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday at Petco Park in San Diego.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 11 TB 2, HOU 1 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 12 TB 4, HOU 2 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 13 TB 5, HOU 2 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 14 HOU 4, TB 3 Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 15 HOU 4, TB 3 Watch
Gm 6 Oct. 16 HOU 7, TB 4 Watch
Gm 7 Oct. 17 TB 4, HOU 2 Watch

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).

But Garcia -- ranked by MLB Pipeline as the club's No. 13 prospect -- lasted two innings before being replaced by left-hander Blake Taylor, who immediately allowed a tying homer to Brandon Lowe after George Springer hit a leadoff shot.

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.

Baker ruled out starting Game 1 starter Framber Valdez on three days of rest and instead will pitch him on normal rest in Game 6 on Friday. If the Astros can keep winning, Lance McCullers Jr. will be lined up to pitch Game 7 on Saturday.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.