Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia entered Saturday’s action with one of the top stat lines in all of Major League Baseball.
He had a 5-0 record, a 1.93 ERA, and a 57/13 K/BB ratio through his first 65 1/3 innings of the 2011 regular season.
Unfortunately, just about everything went wrong Saturday night at Denver’s Coors Field.
Garcia allowed the Rockies’ first five hitters to reach base and wound up surrendering six runs in the first inning alone. The start didn’t get any better in the second or third frames and Garcia was finally pulled in the fourth after allowing a career-high 12 runs and a career-high 11 hits. At one point he was issued an automatic ball for going to his mouth between pitches. Another time he flubbed a rundown that led to a Colorado score.
Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta did a big chunk of the damage, finishing 4-for-5 with two home runs and six RBI. Ryan Spilborghs also had a big night, going 3-for-4 with four RBI and two runs scored.
Garcia has great stuff and remains a top young arm, but regression can come quickly and the 24-year-old native of Mexico is now sporting a more realistic 3.28 ERA and 1.19 WHIP through 11 starts.
Justin Verlander is approaching the tail end of a fantastic year with the Astros — arguably one of his best in the last decade — and on Saturday, he kicked off his last regular season start at Minute Maid Park with a strikeout, his 270th of the year. While that’s still a few shy of Max Scherzer‘s league-best mark of 290, it was a new personal record for Verlander, who had yet to beat the previous career record he set with 269 strikeouts in 2009.
Verlander’s moment arrived at the top of the first inning on a seven-pitch called strikeout against the Angels’ Kole Calhoun. Cole worked a 2-2 count, then fouled off a pair of 95-MPH fastballs before missing the seventh and final pitch at the top of the strike zone.
Jose Fernandez battled twice as long in the next at-bat, albeit with far more disastrous results. His 14-pitch duel against the Astros’ righty ended when he caught a fastball on his hand and was forced to come out of the game.
After expending a total of 27 pitches in the first inning, however, Verlander returned in the second to strike out the side, then logged another pair of strikeouts in the third. With six strikeouts through three innings, he boosted his season strikeout total to 275 — just a hair above fellow Houston righty Gerrit Cole (and all other AL pitchers), who previously led the team with 272 whiffs on the year.