While much attention was directed toward Oakland Athletics reliever Jerry Blevins for coming into Tuesday night’s game to shut down the Los Angeles Angels in the ninth inning with runners on the corners and none out, there was another impressive performance from an unlikely source this week that went somewhat unnoticed.
Washington Nationals reliever Christian Garcia, whom I wrote about last week, has an incredible story; and that story has only gotten better since the two-time Tommy John surgery recipient was called up when rosters expanded to make his big league debut on September 4th. The 27-year-old right-hander with an average fastball velocity of 97 miles per hour that is quite nicely complimented by his multiple swing-and-miss off-speed and breaking pitches, has taken full advantage of his opportunities.
In six appearances this season, he’s only given up a single run on a solo shot off the bat of the Miami Marlins cyborg Giancarlo Stanton. In fact, of the twenty batters he’s faced thus far, only four have gotten on base. He’s struck out seven batters and walked none. Obviously, that doesn’t represent the most abundant of samples, but if we look at how he handled himself across two Minor League levels this season (32 K%; 8 BB%) combined with his absolutely killer stuff, you’ll forgive me for getting a little bit excited.
If you’re not with me yet, though, it’s understandable. Let’s look at Garcia’s outing from Tuesday night against the New York, in which he struck out the side in the seventh inning, and then induced David Wright into a line out in the eight before giving way to Mike Gonzalez, all while his team led by a single run.
The first batter he faced was Jordany Valdespin, to whom he threw his first three pitches for balls. His fourth pitch was a 95 miles per hour fastball that was taken for strike one. His next pitch, another fastball, caught the outside part of the plate on Valdespin for strike two. So, after throwing five straight fastballs between 93 and 95 miles per hour, he did this …
… an 86 miles per hour changeup moving away from the batter, almost like a slower two-seam fastball.
The next batter, Ruben Tejada, again saw nothing but fastballs until Garcia got to two strikes when he again unleashed his change up, this time to a right-handed batter:
Tejada, who has above average plate discipline, is so deceived by the change in speed after back-to-back-to-back fastballs that he offers at a pitch that appears to hit the plate, looking positively ridiculous in the process.
The next batter that Garcia faced was Daniel Murphy. The Mets second baseman was the first batter of the night to see an off speed pitch from the right-hander before he got to two strikes. Nonetheless, Garcia’s change up still resulted in a swing-and-miss, and it set up this breathtaking 1-2 curve ball.
What’s so awesome about Murphy’s swing here is that the timing looks fine. It’s as though he was expecting another change up, and while Garcia’s hook comes in at a slightly slower velocity than the change, it bends in the opposite direction, leaving Murphy to look hilariously inaccurate with his swing.
While his recent success has inspired some Nationals pundits to suggest that Garcia might be considered for the post season roster, he’s not actually eligible since he wasn’t called up to the Majors until September 2nd, and according to Major League Rule 40 (a):
The pool of players eligible for the postseason consists of the 25 players on the active roster and any players on the disabled, bereavement, suspended or military lists before midnight ET on August 31.
That is, unless he’s replacing an injured player. If a player in the organization is on the Disabled List on August 31 and still on the Disabled List at the end of the regular season, that player may be replaced on the playoff roster by any player that was in the organization as of August 31. Both Henry Rodriguez and Wilson Ramos were on the DL at the end of August with no hope of returning in time for the playoffs.
In a way, I almost hope that Garcia isn’t on the post season roster for the Nationals, because his is a story that would no doubt be stretched and molded far past the genuine inspiration that it currently brings. If he is selected though, I’ll hope that his numbers continue to match a truly excellent narrative.