Garcia young, but with playoff experience


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.

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Morning tip: Under Scott Brooks, Wizards' roster is much younger than a year ago

Morning tip: Under Scott Brooks, Wizards' roster is much younger than a year ago

The decision on the final 15-man roster for the Wizards represents yet another significant shift under coach Scott Brooks.

After the preseason finale Friday, he kept rookie free agents Daniel Ochefu, Sheldon McClellan and Danuel House as the team prepares for the Oct. 27 regular-season opener at the Atlanta Hawks.

Brooks has re-focused the Wizards on defense, revamped the offense and has cut down on practice time to keep his players fresh.

The latter is a major about-face of the Wizards’ philosophy under then-coach Randy Wittman, who ran longer and more frequent practices. The Wizards had the previous two days off before the 119-82 rout of the Toronto Raptors. They’re practicing Saturday and will be off Sunday.

"It's great," point guard John Wall, who had surgeries to clean up both knees on May 5, of having more recovery time. "Coach understands us as players, (we) come in with the mind-set of whatever we got to do, get it done. A lot more focused than we've (been) in the past. It's a new beginning for all of us."

By simply taking a look at the 15-man rosters to start the season in 2015-16 and 2016-17, the direction that Brooks is heading with personnel also is vastly different.

Last season, the Wizards began with seven players 30 and over (Nene, Jared Dudley, Kris Humphries, Marcin Gortat, Gary Neal, Alan Anderson and Drew Gooden). They had two who were 29 (Garrett Temple and Ramon Sessions). Only five players were 27 or younger.

Now, the roster has Gortat at 32, Jason Smith at 30 and Ian Mahinmi will be 30 next month. Marcus Thornton is 29.  The other 11 on the roster are 27 or younger.

Wittman, who said on multiple occasions that he had input on makeup of his rosters, preferred more experienced players and had the freedom to use those pieces how he saw fit. Heavy practice time for an older roster might've backfired during a 41-41 season when there was an injury rash.

Brooks has gone with energy and potential upside. Even though this roster is younger, he was brought in by president Ernie Grunfeld, in part, to do a better job with development which is why sticking with Ochefu (22), McClellan (23) and House (23) follows the blueprint.

The defensive intensity of McClellan and House when they were on the floor together was noticeable. Ochefu earned more time when Mahinmi went down with a knee injury.

Brooks can’t play all 15 and someone has to be on the inactive list when the regular season begins, but House, McClellan and Ochefu will have opportunties that might not have been there previously. 

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Doctson could return from IR in Week 15

Doctson could return from IR in Week 15

The announcement that the Redskins are sending Josh Doctson to injured reserve wasn’t really a surprise to anyone, although perhaps the timing was. Jay Gruden has said earlier that he thought they would wait until after the bye to make a decision on whether or not to put Doctson on the shelf. But visits to a couple of specialists convinced them to make the move.

The team’s top draft pick ends the season with 31 snaps played and two receptions for 66 yards including a 57-yard reception against the Cowboys. Doctson wasn’t expected to contribute much this season but the plans were to let him get his feet wet, learn in practice, and be ready to take over a starting role next year.

Now, he can’t practice for eight games even if he overcomes his mysterious Achilles problems. He can go to meetings and be around the facility and there is some benefit in that.  

Like any player put on injured reserve after the roster cut to 53, Doctson is eligible to return after eight games. The team has one move off of IR that it can use each season. The earliest that Doctson could return is Week 15, when the Redskins host the Panthers. There is a long way to go before that bridge needs to be crossed.

The other possibilities to be activated later are center Kory Lichtensteiger and safety David Bruton. But that is a decision that can be made later in the season. Who knows what the injury picture might look like when they do have to make a call.

To replace Doctson on the roster the Redskins signed rookie free agent wide receiver Maurice Harris to the roster. At 6-3 Harris immediately becomes the tallest receiver on the roster.

The move doesn’t have much of an effect on the wide receiver depth chart since Doctson has been inactive for four weeks. It remains to be seen when Harris will see the field on game days.