"His offspeed [stuff] was tremendous tonight," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He mixed in his fastball enough to keep them off balance. He kept them out of their game, which is to try to put pressure on you."
Garcia had to wait through a rain delay of one hour and 45 minutes to make his first start against Texas since his Yankees debut last season, but the result was another performance consistent with his eight starts this year. He delivered 6 2/3 innings, allowing two home runs by Hamilton while striking out six and giving up four hits. Garcia is now undefeated in his last seven starts against Texas, moving to 5-0 with a 1.90 ERA over the stretch.
"Ever since he came back from the bullpen, he's been tremendous," Yankees catcher Russell Martin said. "I think part of it is he's gotten his velocity back. When his velocity is up, his pitches are a little sharper and a little crisper."
Garcia's strong outing followed Hiroki Kuroda's two-hit shutout on Tuesday and a strong combined effort from David Phelps and Derek Lowe on Monday. The Yankees' pitching staff has allowed Texas' high-powered offense just four runs in the first three games of this set, which pairs the teams with the two best records in the American League.
"Their pitching has stopped us; that's it," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "They've scored runs offensively, and we haven't. We're a team that can score runs; we just haven't."
The Yankees have also proven they can score runs, and while Kuroda was stuck waiting until the bottom of the seventh for his offense to arrive, Garcia pitched with a lead for most of the night. After back-to-back singles led off the bottom of the third inning, Nick Swisher blooped a double to left to bring Jayson Nix home and advance Derek Jeter to third. Curtis Granderson drove in Jeter with a sacrifice fly before Eric Chavez -- 19-for-37 (.514) over his last 11 games -- singled home Swisher to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.
It didn't take long for Hamilton to respond. With one out in the top of the fourth, he hit Garcia's 3-2 splitter into the second deck in right field, tying a career high with his 33rd home run of the year -- the first regular-season homer of his career at Yankee Stadium -- and ending Texas' streak of consecutive scoreless innings at 20.
But Garcia closed the door on any further damage in the fourth. The Rangers loaded the bases after Hamilton's home run, but the righty induced a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at two runs.
"Against this team, you have to bring your 'A' game," Garcia said. "I was able to do that and make a good pitch when I needed it."
Garcia wouldn't run into any more trouble until Hamilton added his Major League-leading 34th homer in the sixth on a booming shot into the right-field bleachers.
"You can handle solo shots," Martin said. "He's a tremendous talent. If you make a mistake, more often than not, he's going to take advantage of it. The approach on him is treat him 0-2 from the get-go."
That would do it at the plate for the Rangers, who got a strong outing from starter Scott Feldman. The right-hander limited the Yankees to minimal damage outside of the three-run third, lasting six innings and striking out seven.
But the night belonged to Garcia, not Feldman. While he might be in the minority, Girardi isn't surprised by Garcia's success upon the veteran's return to the starting staff. After four subpar, injury-riddled seasons with Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago from 2006-10, Garcia revitalized his career last season in New York, using his split-finger fastball to post 12 wins and a 3.62 ERA at the age of 34. Now, Garcia is performing in the twilight of his career when the Yankees need him most, and he's getting recognized for it.
"He pitched so well for us last year," Girardi said. "If Freddy wouldn't have pitched so well, I would've been surprised. He struggled a little bit in the beginning, but we saw really good stuff in Spring Training from Freddy. He got off to a slow start for whatever reason, and he's rebounded nicely for us. It's been really important in the absence of Andy."