Starter's 8 strong frames ease pressure on Atlanta's bullpen
By Jaylon Thompson
ATLANTA -- Braves left-hander Jaime Garcia has proven he has the stuff necessary to be effective. But his inconsistent command had led to an elevated walk rate and the self-inflicted damage he has incurred during some of his most recent starts.
Garcia showed much improvement Sunday afternoon, as he did not issue a walk while delivering eight strong innings in the Braves' 3-2 loss to the Nationals at SunTrust Park. He entered having totaled 14 walks over his previous three starts (17 1/3 innings). He also recorded his first hit of the season, a double, and the first hit of the game off Washington starter Stephen Strasburg.
"Today I was able to get strike one for the most part, and I think that is big, to be able to use both sides of the plate," Garcia said. "This is my key every time that I take the mound."
Garcia threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of 32 batters faced, and he limited the Nationals' dangerous lineup to just one earned run. He regretted falling behind Daniel Murphy with two sinkers before seeing the second baseman jump on a low 2-0 fastball and send it over the right-field wall. The only other two runs tagged to the Braves' southpaw came after right fielder Nick Markakis dropped Trea Turner's fly ball to begin the third inning.
"He pitched really, really good and it was a day when we needed him to go deep into the game, and he did," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "We had been using our bullpen to win these games, and we needed him to extend the game, and he did. It was a great job."
Garcia's performance continued a string of solid outings from the Braves' starting rotation. He snapped the team's 14-start streak of not pitching into the eighth inning and became the first Braves pitcher to complete eight since Matt Wisler did so against the D-backs on Aug. 25, 2016.
"The whole outing was great. That's kind of how I envision him being," Snitker said. "I watch his stuff. I look at the video, and I don't know how they hit him. Everything is just moving so much. That was really encouraging today."
Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.