Astros confident in Garcia despite tough night

April 15th, 2023

HOUSTON -- Astros catcher called it a step forward, and pitcher later nodded his head in agreement. The numbers -- five earned runs in five innings -- certainly didn’t back that up, but the veteran backstop saw signs that Garcia is headed in the right direction.

Through three starts, Garcia is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA and Houston hasn't won any of the games he’s pitched. That included Friday night’s 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Rangers at Minute Maid Park that was the Astros' most lopsided loss of the season and dropped them to 6-8 -- exactly where they stood through 14 games last year.

“I think he threw the ball really, really good,” Maldonado said. “The numbers probably don’t show that, but overall it’s a good step moving forward.”

After giving up four earned runs in four innings on Saturday against the Twins, a frustrated Garcia said he was pitching angry. He was in a much better frame of mind Friday.

“I felt way better today than the last outing, and I think I will keep with that in my next outing,” Garcia said. “Just overall, my body and everything was working way better.”

Garcia, who entered the game 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA in three career starts against Texas, walked Marcus Semien on four pitches to start the game and allowed him to score on a double by Nathaniel Lowe, who hit a cutter into right field. Adolis García hit a fastball for a two-run homer in the third that made it 3-0.

“I feel like he threw the ball better today and didn’t make bad mistakes, other than the homer,” Maldonado said. “That was a good pitch. Exactly where we wanted it.”

An infield hit by Semien and a bloop two-run single by Lowe allowed the Rangers to extend the lead in the fifth and Garcia to extend his pitch count. He struck out Adolis García and Josh Jung to end the fifth, but needed 91 pitches to do it. That ties his season high for pitches thrown.

“He was missing [with] near misses, and when he came over the plate he was in the heart of the plate,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “His pitch count got high. We were hoping he could do deeper in the game, but it just didn't happen tonight.”

Last year, Garcia went 15-8 with a 3.72 ERA in 28 regular-season starts, but was limited to 5 2/3 relief innings in the postseason because the Astros had so much pitching depth and had numerous days off. He came to camp this year having to refine his delivery after the Astros were informed in December by Major League Baseball that Garcia’s signature windup -- in which he rocks his arms back and forth before taking one step forward and one step backwards and then delivers the ball -- would no longer be legal within the new pitch timer rules.

Garcia appeared to have little trouble adjusting to life without his new windup in Spring Training, and he maintained Friday it hasn’t been an issue in his struggles so far this year. But after the Astros had four consecutive solid outings from their starters prior to Friday -- six earned runs in 26 innings -- Garcia has yet to go beyond five innings of work this year.

“He’s certainly much better than this,” Baker said. “Hopefully, he’ll be better next start.”