Knee fine, Garcia can pitch Astros to WS

October 22nd, 2021

HOUSTON -- The Astros are hoping for a Framber Valdez-like turnaround tonight from right-hander , who will start Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Red Sox at Minute Maid Park with a chance to pitch Houston to the World Series for the third time in five years.

Garcia lasted only one inning in his Game 2 start, allowing five runs before leaving with a right knee strain. The rookie’s knee had been bothering him for quite some time before it became an issue Saturday. With the help of pitching coach Brent Strom, Garcia made some changes in the lower half of his body while throwing Sunday to ensure he wouldn’t put stress on the knee.

“He threw very well and he’s had -- knock on wood -- no issues since,” Strom said. “It was something that, quite frankly, a lot of young guys, they don’t let anybody know as the season progresses until it gets to the point where it affects your pitching. Plus, the fact that he’s putting extra effort into the game like that and the energy and things just manifested themselves that way. He’s good to go.”

Garcia says his knee issues are behind him.

“The knee feels good,” he said. “The treatment has been very helpful for me, and the adjustments now it's just about going out and trying to do the best job that I can and give the best of me every out.”

Astros starting pitchers had thrown a combined 6 2/3 innings combined in Games 1-4 against the Red Sox before Valdez held Boston to one run in eight innings in Wednesday’s Game 5 win at Fenway Park. Valdez lasted only 2 2/3 innings in his Game 1 start before righting the ship in Game 5. Can Garcia do the same?

“Both Garcia and [likely Game 7 starter José] Urquidy realize the Red Sox are not infallible,” Strom said. “They have an excellent team with really good professional hitters over there with J.D. [Martinez], [Kiké] Hernández and [Kyle] Schwarber. These are professional guys who have been through wars before. If you make your pitches, you can be successful. Hopefully that will be the biggest thing for [Garcia].”

Garcia, who’ll likely get some AL Rookie of the Year Award votes, pitched much better at home in the regular season this year (6-5, 2.39 ERA) than on the road (5-3, 4.24), so the Astros are hoping his Game 2 clunker at Minute Maid Park was an anomaly.

“Yeah, it's big start for me tomorrow, obviously, but I try not to think about that too much,” Garcia said. “I try not to complicate my mind thinking about how big it is. I think of it as another normal outing and do everything that I can do to help my team try to get to the World Series.”