Garcia young, but with playoff experience

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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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Brooks Laich placed on waivers after saying he wants to play for contender

Brooks Laich placed on waivers after saying he wants to play for contender

Brooks Laich thinks he has more to offer, but it seems the Toronto Maple Leafs disagree. Just one day after an interview in which he said he wanted to play for a contender, the Leafs have placed the former Captial on waivers.

“You don’t win a Stanley Cup playing in the American League," Laich told Joshua Kloke of The Athletic. "If the Leafs don’t have a plan for me with them then I would like to pursue a Stanley Cup somewhere else."

Well, it looks like Toronto is calling his bluff.

RELATED: Power Rankings: Bye week blues

Laich was not placed on unconditional waivers, a precursor to the team terminating his contract, he was placed on regular waivers. As he is already in the AHL, placing Laich on waivers simply exposes his contract to the rest of the league allowing other teams to claim him.

In other words, the Leafs appear to be saying, "You think you can still play for a contender? They can have you."

With an overall cap hit of $4.5 million, it seems doubtful any serious contender would claim him.

Laich, 33, was traded by the Capitals to Toronto last season. He was sent to the Leaf's AHL affiliate at the start of the 2016-17 season and that is where he has stayed. Laich has played in only 22 games for the Toronto Marlies, tallying one goal and five assists.

None of that is encouraging. Sadly, however, Laich does not seem to realize the direction his career his going.

“Listen, I’m 33. I’m not 45. I still feel incredibly young. Physically and mentally, I feel as youthful and as energetic as any kid that walks in the door. I feel like I’m younger than the 20-year-old kids. I have passion for the game. You might call me crazy, but I still feel like my best days of hockey are ahead of me.

“I’m not here just to be a mentor and be a good guy. That comes by being a teammate and having experience. But that’s not my job here. My job here is to play hockey and play as well as I can. I still feel I have many, many years left to play.”

Laich's career was derailed by a groin injury he suffered while playing overseas during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Since then, he has never been able to play more than 66 games in a season and has never really looked the same.

The idea that his best days are still ahead of him at this point for a player that can't stay healthy, can't crack the NHL lineup of the Maple Leafs and isn't producing in the AHL is simply delusional. This is not the way we all hoped it would end for a player who was a big part of the Capitals' organization for 12 seasons.

MORE CAPITALS: Grubauer again states case as NHL's best backup

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Nationals sign former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters

Nationals sign former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters

The Washington Nationals have signed former Orioles All-Star catcher Matt Wieters to a one-year deal with a player option for a second year, according to multiple reports. 

Wieters spent the first eight years in the Majors with the Baltimore Orioles, being named to the AL All-Star team four times and winning two gold glove awards. Last season the switch-hitting catcher posted a .243 average with 17 homers and 66 RBI.  

The Nationals have been in the market for catchers all offseason after Wilson Ramos left for Tampa Bay in free agency. The team traded for former Padres catcher Derek Norris, whose role is now in question. The Nationals still have Jose Lobaton on the roster as a strong defensive backup catcher who has a proven rapport with many of the pitchers in the Nationals rotation. Wieters had been linked to the Nationals all offseason because of the team's need a the position and because of the Nationals close relationship with Wieters' agent Scott Boras. 

The only significant time that Wieters has missed due to injury in his career came in 2014-15 when he had Tommy John surgury. Prior to that surgury, however, Wieters had played in at least 130 games for four straight seasons and became a large part of the Orioles' identity. 

The 30-year-old backstop will give the Nationals lineup more depth and power. Wieters had three consecutive 20-homer seasons from 2011-13 and since 2009 when his career began, he ranks fifth among catchers in all of baseball in home runs with 117. 

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