Let me take you back to the rubber-game of the first I-70 Series this season. The Cardinals sent Jaime Garcia and his 1.68 ERA to the hill in the bottom of the 6th inning with the game and the series in hand. The Cardinals had jumped out to a 7-2 lead in Kansas City, and the team was in cruise-control. The Cardinals’ oft-criticized manager, Tony LaRussa, made a number of questionable decisions that day, including bringing Tyler Greene into the game as a defensive replacement for Allen Craig. Not only was Craig 2 for 2 with a homerun and 2 RBIs in the game, but Greene also made a crucial error, letting an infield pop-up fall to give the Royals a run. I wrote a full article about the game here on i70baseball.com back in May.
Though I stand behind most of my criticism in that article, I must offer my apologies to the Cardinals’ manager on my questioning of one decision: taking Jaime Garcia out of the game early.
At the time it seemed ridiculous. Garcia’s 84th and final pitch was crushed over the right field fence to make the game 7-3, and La Russa went immediately to the bullpen. 84 pitches. That’s it. Asking Brian Tallet, Trevor Miller, Ryan Franklin, and Miguel Batista to protect a 4-run lead for four full innings seems as crazy then as it does now, but I understand why the skipper did what he did.
LaRussa was saving Garcia for another day, or really any day in the second-half of the season. Since joining the Cardinals’ rotation last season, Jaime Garcia has hit the ground running from Opening Day through June, but something happens to the Cardinals’ lefty as the dog days of summer wear on. The numbers paint an interesting picture.
|ERA in April:||1.04||2.08||Innings:||26||30.1|
|ERA in May:||1.53||4.23||Innings:||35.1||38.1|
|ERA in June:||4.50||3.44||Innings:||26||36.2|
|ERA in July:||2.51||2.51||Innings:||28.2||32.1|
|ERA in Aug:||2.53||6.84||Innings:||30.2||26.1|
|ERA in Sept:||5.94||—-||Innings:||16.2||—–|
Perhaps a more telling stat is this: in 13 career starts in August or September, Garcia has failed to pitch at least 6 innings 8 times. He’s pitched more than 7 innings just once. Since the trade deadline this year, he’s made it to the 6th inning just once in five tries.
The Cardinals know Chris Carpenter’s clock is ticking, and by handing Jaime a $27 million contract, they’ve established him as the team’s future #2 starter behind Adam Wainwright (or at least a #3 starter). The Cardinals him down early last season, and they’re skipping at least one of his starts this season. The Cardinals may be out of the race at this point, but there’s still plenty of things to watch for as the season winds down. And one of, if not the top things should be Garcia’s ability to handle the workload in September. Because if he can’t handle September, how will he handle October down the road?