ATLANTA -- Luis Garcia's spot on the Phillies seemed tenuous in Spring Training.
He struggled last season with a 6.46 ERA over 17 appearances, and while he has the stuff to be a setup man or closer, it wasn't known whether he could handle the pressure of late-inning situations. In fact, former Phillies closer Brad Lidge discussed with him in March ways to better handle it.
Garcia allowed three runs in the eighth inning in the Phillies' 4-2 loss to the Braves on Saturday night at SunTrust Park, costing Henderson Alvarez his first win in the big leagues since Sept. 23, 2014 -- exactly three years ago. Garcia had not struggled like that in some time. He entered the night having allowed one earned run in 18 2/3 innings (0.48 ERA) in 19 appearances since Aug. 12, working himself into the team's setup role. Garcia walked four in that stretch and struck out 19.
The right-hander figures to be a piece of next season's Phillies bullpen, although it's unclear whether he continues in the setup role. He has a 4.23 ERA in 27 2/3 innings in the eighth inning and a 0.37 ERA between the sixth and seventh.
"He's had some good moments and some bad moments like tonight," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "When you're pitching in a clutch situation like that, you can't fall behind hitters. You've got to get ahead. I think he threw five consecutive fastballs to [Dansby] Swanson."
Matt Adams singled and pinch-runner Micah Johnson stole second to put the trying runner in scoring position with one out in the eighth. Garcia fell behind 3-0 to Swanson, who then ripped a 3-1 fastball to right field to score Johnson. Johan Camargo then hit a pinch-hit two-run double to give the Braves the lead for good.
Garcia was unavailable to comment after the game.
"He tried to get a strike and couldn't do it," Mackanin said about Garcia's at-bat with Swanson. "And you have to do it to be successful. You cannot get behind the hitters. I think he's got a ways to go, but he's grown into that role. He seems more comfortable out there, but once against it comes down to making clutch hits, making clutch plays and making clutch pitches. We're looking to win a World Series. You've got to be clutch."