When the Orioles brought in Freddy Garcia in late March, he seemed destined to be depth as a fifth or spot starter in the back end of the rotation.
But Thursday night against the Washington Nationals, Garcia turned in the performance of an ace in the Orioles' 2-0 victory at Camden Yards.
The right-hander threw eight shutout innings and allowed just three hits while striking out six on 113 pitches in the Orioles’ third win in the past four games. He retired 14 straight batters from the second to the sixth innings, and he retired 21 of the final 22 Nationals he faced.
“It felt good to go out there and perform the way I did,” Garcia said. “Throw a lot of strikes, don’t walk anybody. The guys made good plays and we scored when we needed.”
One night after the Orioles and Nationals combined for eight home runs in a 9-6 Orioles win, Garcia out-dueled right-hander Dan Haren, who allowed two runs on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. The three hits Garcia allowed tied the least permitted for the Orioles this season, and it was also the least the Nationals tallied this season.
“I just made some good pitches,” Garcia said. “They’d been hitting the ball real good last couple days. It’s hot here in Baltimore, and the ball flies, so you got to keep it down.”
The last time Garcia threw eight shutout innings was Sept. 19, 2006 as a member of the Chicago White Sox in a 7-0 victory over Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. The last time he pitched eight innings was Sept. 20, 2009 for the White Sox against Kansas City.
It’s the second straight start in which Garcia has thrown more than 100 pitches — he tossed 103 in the Orioles’ 6-5 win over Toronto on May 25 — and the most pitches he’s thrown since tossing 112 at Detroit for the New York Yankees on May 4, 2011.
Buck Showalter said he considered sending Garcia out to pitch the ninth — the 36-year-old hasn’t thrown a complete game since 2006 — but the manager ultimately decided to send in closer Jim Johnson to end the game.
“[Garcia] was so careful about changing the karma of the game,” Showalter said. “There was just a vibe in that game that he fits into, I thought.”
Garcia’s outing was the second time in the four-game set against the Nationals that an Orioles pitcher went eight innings (right-hander Jason Hammel allowed two runs in eight innings Monday night). But entering Thursday night, Hammel’s start was the only time in the past seven games when an Orioles pitcher pitched at least six innings.
In his past three starts, Garcia is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings. He’s allowed just four earned runs over that span.
Garcia’s lengthy outing allowed the Orioles bullpen another night of rest before Detroit comes to Baltimore this weekend. The Tigers lead the majors in batting average (.280), on-base percentage (.348), rank second in runs scored (268) and sixth in slugging percentage (.427).
“I'm trying to shorten up guys if I can and Freddy allowed us to do it,” Showalter said. “With one of the best offensive teams in baseball coming in here the next three days, you'd like to have some rested people in your bullpen because you know on the surface you're going to need them.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun