Garcia young, but with playoff experience

908909.png

Garcia young, but with playoff experience

The Nationals were able to escape Game 1 with the win on Sunday despite one of Adam Wainwrights best starts since returning this season from Tommy John surgery. In Game 2 they will face left-hander Jaime Garcia, a younger pitcher who happens to have more experience in the postseason.

Garcia will be making his sixth career postseason start after starting five different games in the Cardinals 2011 World Series run. But despite being part of their championship team, St. Louis got mixed results from Garcia throughout the playoffs.

In the NLDS last season, Garcia was good in his first career postseason start. He took the ball in Game 3 of a tied series with the Philadelphia Phillies and kept them scoreless into the seventh inning. In the top of the seventh Ben Francisco hit a three-run homer with two outs, it gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead and they ended up winning 3-2.

In the 2011 NLCS, Garcia struggled against the Milwaukee Brewers. In Game 1 the 26-year-old allowed six earned runs in just four innings of work. He took the loss as Milwaukee ended up dropping nine runs in total for a 9-6 win. In Game 2 Garcia was better, he pitched 4 23 innings and allowed one earned run on seven hits. Tony La Russa turned to his bullpen early and the Cardinals kept Milwaukee at one run in a 7-1 win.

Garcias performance in the World Series was also up-and-down. He pitched masterfully in Game 2 by keeping the Texas Rangers scoreless through seven innings. The Cardinals ended up losing in a ninth inning rally after he had left the game. Garcia also started the memorable Game 6 and lasted just three innings after allowing two runs early. The Cardinals were able to come back several times that night to get the win.

Garcias 2012 season started and ended well, and included a near two-month absence due to a shoulder injury. Garcia went 2-1 with a 2.78 ERA in April before struggling in May. He made just one start in June before going on the disabled list.

Garcia returned in August with a rough stretch that included his only matchup this season with the Nationals. On August 30 Garcia lasted 5 13 innings at Nationals Park, but allowed six earned runs in total including two homers. Bryce Harper hit one of them, a two-run shot in the first, and then Jayson Werth added a solo homer in the fifth. The six earned runs allowed tied Garcias season high.

After facing the Nationals Garcia really hit his stride in September. He made six starts in September and went 4-1 with a 2.50 ERA in 36 innings pitched. He lasted at least six innings with three earned runs or less in five of those six outings. Garcias final start of the season was on October 1, he went 6 23 innings with two earned runs allowed at home against Cincinnati.

When the Nationals face Garcia it will be at Busch Stadium where Garcia has pitched his best games. At home this season he went 4-2 with a 2.82 ERA in nine starts. Compare that to his 5.02 ERA in 11 starts on the road and there is a clear difference.

Some of the data suggests Garcia should have an advantage in Mondays game, but the Nationals were able to give him one of his worst outings back in August. If they can get to the lefty early in the game, Garcia could be treated with a short leash as it worked for St. Louis in last years postseason.

Quick Links

Wizards take stock of good and bad at midpoint of season

Wizards take stock of good and bad at midpoint of season

With their 104-101 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, the Wizards improved to 22-19 overall through 41 games, the exact midpoint of the 2016-17 season. They play again the next night in New York, so there will be little time for reflection of how they got here. But after beating the Grizzlies, head coach Scott Brooks and several of his players took a look back and a look ahead.

After beginning the season 2-8, they are now three games over .500. What have they liked about their season so far, and what do they still believe can be improved?

Brooks went into extensive detail.

“I didn’t like our start; I liked the last part of the first half, where we’ve played a much better since December. The thing I liked about the start [is that] we didn’t give in to a tough start, we kept battling and figuring out ways to get better – we’re tweaking and tinkering with the lineup, the starters mixing with some of the guys coming off of the bench. Some of our younger players have really done a good job of developing and staying with it when they’re not playing. It can be tough on you mentally, but I think our staff has done a good job to keep them engaged and keep them developing.

"I think Kelly [Oubre] has made some strides. He’s taken a few steps forward [and] taken a step back, but the step back he takes, he doesn’t get frustrated and takes another step. He always seems to bounce back and come back. Otto [Porter] has, I think, developed into the most consistent shooter in the league from the three. Every night it seems like he has it. And John [Wall] and Brad [Beal], I like the way they’re playing and leading. March [Marcin Gortat] has done a good job. I think we’re playing much better because we’re really buying into each other, and I think when you do that, teams have trouble beating us. I think at home, we’ve figured that out, but we have to figure out how to do it on the road.”

Guard Bradley Beal agreed with Brooks, that he was most pleased with how the Wizards rebounded from their dreadful start. 

“I like how we fought through adversity. I think we didn't give up on our slow start. We battled back and now we're over .500 now but just imagine if we were playing the way we were supposed to the first couple of games, our record would probably be a lot different. Definitely proud of the way we've been playing, the way we bounced back. We definitely can get better at playing great defense for 48 minutes, being locked in for 48 minutes. Just making sure we continue to respect our opponents and be prepared for every game moving forward.” 

[RELATED: CMills asks why Wall, Beal don't get more national attention]

Otto Porter gave a few reasons why he thinks they are playing better now than before.

“Back then it was early. We were still figuring each other out. New coaches, new players. Right now, we are starting to figure things out. We are confident in ourselves, playing for each other, playing hard and just rolling with it... Just, I guess figuring out things defensively. Everybody is on the same page. Offensively, just letting the game come to us. Moving the ball, and knowing that we want to be a defensive team," he said.

Improving away from the Verizon Center was a common theme in the answers from players. The Wizards are now 18-6 at home, while only the Golden State Warriors have more home wins. On the road, the Wizards are only 4-13 with the Nets the only NBA team featuring less road victories.

That's enough to give them the fifth seed in the East, but they know they still have plenty of work to do.

“We have a lot we can improve on: just closing out games, playing for a full 48-minutes, moving the ball at times when we get stagnant, but I like the effort that we gave," guard John Wall said of the first half of the season. "The way that we started the season, the way we had a great month of December, and we're playing well right now. It's great to take care of home court, just want to for the second half of the season improve on the road. If we can find a way to improve on the road I feel like we could have a better record. To be in the situation we are now, the way that we started the season, you can't ask for more.”

The Wizards were in a reflective mood, but Marcin Gortat put it bluntly where he thinks the Wizards are currently at.

“[The 22-19 record means] nothing. We have to continue to do what we do. We aren’t getting excited. We’ve been in this situation where we’ve been minus-five, under .500. We just have to focus and play and now we have to get some wins on the road," he said.

[RELATED: Grizzlies pay for ignoring Otto Porter]

Last-second layup secures Virginia Tech win over Georgia Tech

Last-second layup secures Virginia Tech win over Georgia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Seth Allen scored the final two of his 17 points on a layup with 15 seconds left to lift Virginia Tech to a 62-61 victory over Georgia Tech on Wednesday.

It was a game the Hokies needed after losing three of their past four games. Allen hit 6 of 9 from the floor, including three 3-pointers, and Zach LeDay added 17 points.

Virginia Tech (14-4 overall, 3-3 ACC) led by as many as nine in the second half, but couldn't put away the Yellow Jackets (11-7, 3-3), who had two chances in the final seconds to take the lead. Georgia Tech turned the ball over with :09 left, and then fouled Virginia Tech's Justin Robinson, who missed the front end of a one-and-one.

Quinton Stephens missed a contested jumper at the buzzer that would have won the game for Georgia Tech.

Stephens paced the Yellow Jackets with 18 points.

MORE NCAA: Should Georgetown consider parting ways with John Thompson III?