Garcia’s impressive stretch warrants more attention

With so much attention understandably focused on the Braves’ young players and prospects, the future of the rebuilding team and the many roster machinations and trade possibilities — Jim Johnson? Ian Krol? Eric O’Flaherty? — as this disappointing season churns on, it’s easy for a guy like Adonis Garcia to get completely overshadowed.

Adonis Garcia has hit .405 with three homers in a 10-game hitting streak through Thursday. (Getty Images)

Adonis Garcia has hit .405 with three homers in a 10-game hitting streak through Thursday. (Getty Images)

But now that the third baseman’s hitting streak has reached double digits, he warrants some attention, don’t ya think? Not just the streak, but the fact that he’s been a solid contributor both offensively and defensively since returning from a May demotion to the minors.

Garcia, a 31-year-old Cuban in his first full season in the majors, is 17-for-42 (.405) during a 10-game hitting streak with four doubles, three homers, only two strikeouts and a .714 slugging percentage. In his past 17 games, he’s hit .391 (27-for-69) with 11 extra-base hits, 10 RBIs and a .638 slugging percentage.

“The last couple of weeks I’ve felt really good at the plate, and now I’m being a little more selective, (that’s) why I’m getting results,” he said through a translator.

Braves assistant hitting coach Jose Castro said, “He’s doing a very nice job. He’s got a lot of power to the opposite field. He can hit the ball all over the place, but when he stays more center-oriented, you can see the ball’s flying.”

Since coming back from that three-week May stint at Triple-A Gwinnett, Garcia has hit .275 with 19 extra-base hits (seven home runs) and 24 RBIs, and his third-base defense has been much improved over the sloppy early season glovework that contributed to the decision to send him down.

The odd thing is, he was sent to Triple-A to focus on playing left field, which he did, but then was put back at third base upon returning, because that’s where the Braves had the greater need when he got back. And since then it’s like he flipped a switch and became a competent third baseman – and sometimes far better.

“To his credit, he came to Gwinnett with a good outlook and good spirts,” said Braves interim manager Brian Snitker, who was Gwinnett’s manager at the time when Garcia was sent down. “And he went to work, played real hard. I’ve got to hand it to him, he didn’t come down and sulk. He had a big smile on his face when he got there.

“He went out and played left field, and I brought him back up (to the majors) and we put him right at third. And he hasn’t missed a beat, really. He just accepted it, worked hard there, and he’s played very well.”

Before being sent down in early May, Garcia hit just .260 with just three extra-base hits (one homer) in 28 games and had 23 strikeouts in 104 at-bats, with almost as many errors (seven) as RBIs (eight).

“(Hitting coach Kevin) Seitzer and I talked about it, how he was swinging too hard, trying to do a little too much,” Castro said. “Pitcher supplies the power with his fastball, the speed. Just need to be short and quick to it, let damage unfold. He’s been doing a really nice job.

“He went down for a little bit, but he came back, and he’s been really good at third, too. He’s been playing lights-out.”

Garcia isn’t just hitting, he’s hitting in big spots, especially in late innings of games when the Braves have a chance to win.

Half of his eight homers have come in the seventh inning or later, and in those innings in close games he’s batting .405 (17-for-42) with three doubles, two homers, nine RBIs and a .457 OBP and .619 slugging percentage. In those “close-and-late” situations he leads the team in hits, batting average, extra-base hits, RBIs, OBP and slugging percentage.

“He can take you line to line,” Castro said of how Castro hits the ball hard all over the field. “True gap power, he’s got that. He’s strong.”

Garcia said, “When I’m hitting good, I realize when I hit it the other way (opposite field). When I can hit the ball the other way I get better results, and I’ve got more pop the other way, too.”

• The Braves have a five-game losing streak against the Phillies that began May 22, and in those five games Atlanta has posted a 5.49 ERA while batting .229 and totaling just 11 runs. And nearly half of those runs came in Thursday night’s 7-5 loss in a series opener at Turner Field.

The Phillies have outscored the Braves 29-11 and out-homered them 12-2 in the five-game streak.

The Braves are 3-7 against the Phillies this season with a .229 batting average, 3.72 ERA and 31 runs in 10 games.

• Friday’s matchup: Rookie Tyrell Jenkins makes his fourth start and his first at Turner Field when he and the Braves face  Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez (8-2, 3.34 ERA).

Velasquez is 3-0 with a 2.50 ERA in his past five starts, with 30 strikeouts, 12 walks and three homers allowed in 30 innings. In his only career start against the Braves on May 12, the second-year big leaguer gave up six hits, four runs and two walks with five strikeouts in six innings of a 7-4 Phillies win.

A.J. Pierzynski is 2-for-3 against him, and Gordon Beckham is 1-for-5 with three RBIs.

Velasquez is 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA and .210 opponents’ average in 10 road games (three starts) compared to 1-0 with a 5.08 ERA and .260 OA in nine games (four starts) at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

Jenkins is 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in three starts since moving from the Braves bullpen, and this will be his first home start after making his first three in three of the most challenging (for pitchers) ballparks in the majors at Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Colorado.

Jenkins pitched well in the first two, giving up one run and four hits in 4 2/3 innings in an emergency start on short notice in a July 6 Braves loss at Philadelphia, then allowing two runs and four hits in six innings of a July 19 Braves extra-innings win at Cincinnati, when he was in position for his first win before Jim Johnson gave up two runs in the ninth.

His third start Sunday in the thin air of Coors Field in Denver was a struggle for Jenkins from the outset, and he left only after enduring 3 1/3 innings in which he allowed eight hits, seven runs, three homers and five walks. That included four runs in the first inning and a three-run homer by Nolan Arenado before Jenkins recorded an out.

Tyrell Jenkins makes his first home start (and fourth overall start) Friday when he faces the Phillies. He's coming off a rough outing at Coors Field Sunday. (Curtis Compton/AJC file photo)

Tyrell Jenkins makes his first home start (and fourth overall start) Friday when he faces the Phillies. He’s coming off a rough outing at Coors Field Sunday. (Curtis Compton/AJC file photo)

Something to keep an eye on: In his first 30 pitches of games (as a starter or reliever), Jenkins has allowed a .372 average (16-for-43) with two doubles, a triple, four home runs, 11 RBIs and eight walks with five strikeouts.

Also, against right-handers he’s allowed a .333 average (19-for-57) with a .433 OBP, .667 slugging percentage and four home runs, compared to .243/.356/.432 with two homers in 37 at-bats by lefties.

In all, as a starter and reliever Jenkins has allowed a .298 opponents’ average with six homers and 14 RBIs in 94 at-bats, with 16 walks, 11 strikeouts, a .402 OBP and .574 slugging percentage. The numbers are similar as a starter (.286/.403/.589) and as a reliever (.316/.400/.553)

• Before being sent to Triple-A late Thursday, Matt Wisler was 2-6 with a 7.71 ERA, .328 opponents’ average and 16 home runs allowed in his last 10 starts, with 43 strikeouts and 19 walks in 53 2/3 innings.

Let’s close with one more from another great Twin Cities band, since we were only there for a couple of games and I only got to write two blogs there (and certainly had to use a song by the The Replacements and one by Husker Du, two of my all-time bands). Here’s a great one from The Hold Steady.

 

“STUCK BETWEEN STATIONS” by The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady

There are nights when I think that Sal Paradise was right
Boys and girls in America, they have such a sad time together
Sucking off each other at the demonstrations, making sure their makeup’s straight
Crushing one another with colossal expectations, dependent, undisciplined, sleeping lateShe was a really cool kisser and she wasn’t all that strict of a Christian
She was a damn good dancer but she wasn’t all that great of a girlfriend
He likes the warm feeling but he’s tired of all the dehydration
Most nights are crystal clear but tonight it’s like he’s stuck between stations

On the radio

The Devil and John Berryman, they took a walk together
And they ended up on Washington talking to the river
He said, “I’ve surrounded myself with doctors and deep thinkers
Their big heads and soft bodies make for lousy lovers”

There was that night that we thought John Berryman could fly
But he didn’t, so he died
She said “You’re pretty good with words, but words won’t save your life”
And they didn’t, so he died

Yeah, he was drunk and exhausted, he was critically acclaimed and respected
He loved the Golden Gophers but he hated all the drawn-out winters
He likes the warm feeling but he’s tired of all the dehydration
Most nights were kind of fuzzy but that last night he had total retention

Yeah, these Twin City kisses
They sound like clicks and hisses
We all come down and drowned
In the Mississippi River

We drink and we dry up and now we crumble into dust
We get wet and we corrode and now we’re covered up in rust
We drink and we dry up and now we crumble into dust
We get wet and we corrode and now we’re covered up in rust

She was a really cool kisser and she wasn’t all that strict of a Christian
She was a damn good dancer but she wasn’t all that great of a girlfriend
He likes the warm feeling but he’s tired of all the dehydration
Most nights are crystal clear but tonight it’s like he’s stuck between stations

These Twin City kisses
They sound like clicks and hisses
We all come down and drowned

 


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