A couple of issues that plagued Garcia throughout 2011 showed themselves again in his first National League Championship Series start, and so the young lefty found himself with a quick night and a loss as St. Louis fell to Milwaukee, 9-6, in Game 1 at Miller Park on Sunday. Garcia was reached for six runs in four-plus innings, four of them in a lightning-strike onslaught before he could get an out in the fifth.
Throughout the season, Garcia has found himself victimized by the big inning. And for the entirety of his brief big league career, he's had a much tougher time away from Busch Stadium than at home. On Sunday, that was the double-whammy that sent him to defeat.
"I'm trying not to think about anything else but making pitches," Garcia said. "Obviously, I'm trying to do my best and give us a chance, try to keep the momentum going for us, and I didn't do it. I'm going out there trying to make pitches every single time. Didn't do it. I feel bad."
Garcia actually minimized the damage in the first inning, a frame that could have sunk him before he even got started. When he went walk-homer-hit batter-walk after a leadoff groundout, manager Tony La Russa actually got a reliever warming. But a pair of strikeouts helped Garcia escape the jam, and he picked up steam over the next three innings.
"He cruised," said La Russa. "He pitched great, he got us three zeroes; second, third, fourth [innings]."
And then the fifth happened. The first two batters, Corey Hart and Jerry Hairston, went single-double, bringing up Ryan Braun. It didn't take long for that to turn bad. With the Cards leading, 5-2, Garcia hung a slider and Braun drilled it down the line. One pitch later, Prince Fielder walloped a two-run homer and Milwaukee had the lead.
"All the time when I'm on the mound I'm thinking I can get out of this," Garcia said. "I never give up. When I had Braun up there, I was trying to make a pitch, and he had a good swing. Fielder, same thing. I was trying to stay out of the middle of the plate, try to make a pitch, and it was in the middle of the plate and he hit the ball good."
After that, Garcia's day was finished, done in by his recurring inability to escape the big inning.
"He wasn't hitting the location and they made him pay," said catcher Yadier Molina. "If he was upset, you've got to ask him. What I was looking at was the location. ... He's not supposed to be like that. You have to be more aggressive, try to keep the ball down."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less