Garcia wields the big hammer for Rays

Projected 471-foot blast plus two RBI hits all the offense team needs

May 15th, 2019

MIAMI -- A big reason the Rays signed to a one-year deal in the offseason was his ability to crush left-handed pitching.

Garcia put that ability on display on Tuesday, launching a 471-foot home run in the second inning off Marlins starter Caleb Smith to lead the Rays to a 4-0 win over Miami at Marlins Park. It was the longest home run hit by a Rays player since Statcast began tracking in 2015, ahead of 464-foot shots by C.J. Cron on Aug. 18, 2018, at Boston and J.P. Arencibia on Sept. 7, 2015, at Detroit.

“It’s great, I’m just trying to do my job,” Garcia said. “I didn’t expect to hit a ball like that. I know I hit it good, but not that far.”

Garcia entered Tuesday’s game with a career .804 OPS in 624 career at-bats against southpaws. This season, however, Garcia has struggled against left-handers, entering Tuesday’s game hitting just .167/.286/.333.

But on Tuesday, Garcia, who went 3-for-4 and drove in three of the four Rays runs, didn’t miss an 0-2, 93-mph offering from Smith and sent it over the artificial grass in center field at Marlins Park.

“It was a fastball. I tried to get it up,” Smith said. “I didn’t get it up high enough.”

It was the fifth longest home run in Marlins Park history, and the longest by a visiting player. The top four were all hit by former Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton, whose longest there was 479 feet on June 23, 2015.

“I was shocked how far that ball went,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I know they had a guy here for many years in Stanton that hit balls a long way, but that’s got to be up there with some of his majestic shots. It just kept going up, and to get it over the batter’s eye was pretty impressive.”

Garcia showed off his power in the second inning, and then he showcased his speed in the ninth, beating out a dribbler to third base for an infield single to give the Rays a 4-0 lead. According to Statcast, it took Garcia 4.33 seconds to get down the first-base line, and he had a sprint speed of 30.4 ft/sec, faster than his average speed of 28.5 ft/sec.

It’s the kind of hustle the Rays have displayed all season en route to a 25-15 record.

“I don’t want to give up anything,” Garcia said. “Sometimes you hit the ball good, and it’s out. Sometimes you hit the ball like that, and you have to hustle, and I’m the guy that hustles every single day. You never know what’s going to happen, so it’s important for me and for everyone to run hard every single game.”

Before Tuesday’s blast, Brandon Lowe and Garcia had the longest home runs of the season by a Rays player with a projected distance of 448 feet.

Morton shines on the mound
came into Tuesday’s start with an 11.4 walk rate, the highest in his career. Despite not having lost this season, Morton said having starts with multiple walks was “not sustainable” if you want to have a good season, and he added that he hoped the free passes would decrease as he got a better feel for his pitches.

On Tuesday, the Rays' right-hander had much better control of his pitches, striking out five and walking none over six innings. Morton relied on his fastball-curveball combination, but he mixed in his cutter and sinker well to get through an aggressive Marlins lineup, getting 11 swings and misses compared to the nine he picked up against Arizona in his previous start last Wednesday. He threw 82 pitches, 54 of them for strikes.

“He was outstanding,” Cash said. “He had the fastball going. The curveball was really, really good, [and] he even threw some really good cutters. [Pitching coach Kyle Snyder] referenced the cutter coming out of the bullpen that looked a little different and had some pretty electric shape to it, so all in all, just an outstanding effort and performance by Charlie.”

Morton improved to 4-0 this season and is 7-0 in 16 starts since Aug. 17, 2018, the longest unbeaten streak of his career and second-longest active streak in the Majors behind Clayton Kershaw’s 18 starts.