Note of the night: Coming off two starts in which his command was off, his pitch counts ran high and he was done sooner than expected, Jaime Garcia wanted to right the ship. He wasn’t pitching badly, but he wasn’t getting as deep into games as he or the Cardinals wanted.
He succeeded on Wednesday, getting through seven innings on 111 pitches and issuing one walk — the third time this year he’s kept the walk total that low, and the first time since May 14. After the game, Garcia explained the changes he made.
He said that for one, he made some small mechanical tweaks, but that really wasn’t the big deal. It was more a matter of approach. He explained that what was happening was that he’d been aiming his fastball too narrowly.
Garcia was trying to throw pitches right on the black. But with the movement on his fastball, he doesn’t need to do that. Especially when pitching to a left-hander, he can aim more for the heart of the plate and get movement toward the edge.
“You kind of think about, OK, what is my fastball doing?” he said. “My fastball is moving this way [in on a left-handed hitter]. If it’s moving this way, try to use more of the middle of the plate so it will be on the corner. If it’s moving this way, and you go to the corner, it’s going to be a ball every time.”
Once he made that adjustment, Garcia was able to trust his fastball more, throw it earlier in counts, get ahead and work off of it. It’s pitching A-B-Cs, really. Get ahead with your fastball, then finish hitters off with your breaking pitches. When he wasn’t getting ahead with the fastball, hitters were laying off his offspeed stuff, leading to deep counts, walks and long innings.
“The last two starts are the only ones that I changed a little bit, trying to do too much,” he said. “You’ve got to step back and relax a little bit, think about, ‘OK, what is going on? There is something definitely going on. Why are you walking guys? Trying to be too fine?’ So you look back at the video, realize what you’re doing and go back to where you were. Make adjustments.
“It’s [about] having more confidence in my fastball, and using the plate more. Early in the game, the last couple games, I was trying to be too fine and I ended up walking guys. Tried to be on the corner and the ball was [moving off the plate]. So I try to keep the ball down and use more of the middle of home plate. and then later you can go to the corners a little bit more, you can bounce a curveball. But it was more being able to get ahead with my pitches and then make adjustments as the game goes on.”
It worked very well. This was the Garcia the Cardinals want to see, even if he allowed more runs than he did in his previous game. He can be efficient, he can get groundballs and quick outs. And if he does that, he can not only be effective but help take strain off the bullpen.
Stat of the day: David Freese his hitting .318 with a .441 slugging percentage, which comes out to an isolated slugging percentage of .123. His career ISO in the Minors was .224, and it was never below .187 in any Minor League season.
Fun with double situational splits: Hitters are 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position against Garcia in June.
And, finally, the playlist:
The Gaslight Anthem, “Diamond Church Street Choir”
Beck, “Cellphone’s Dead”
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, “Around the Bend”