ST. LOUIS — It’s been a trend that’s haunted him since he first became a starter in 2010, but Jaime Garcia and the Cardinals still don’t have an answer as to why he pitches much better at home compared to on the road.
Garcia turned in yet another strong start at Busch Stadium Tuesday, allowing just one unearned run in 7 1/3 innings to earn the victory in the Cardinals’ 5-1 triumph over the New York Mets.
And it continued a trend that’s become too noticeable to ignore, whether Garcia and the Cardinals want to or not. The left-hander now has a 2.63 ERA in 48 innings at home this season compared to a 5.80 ERA in 45 innings on the road.
“Baseball,” Garcia explained. “Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Garcia has made four starts since coming off the disabled list and all have fallen in line with his career-long trend. He allowed no earned runs in 15 1/3 innings over two starts at Busch while allowing 10 earned runs in 11 1/3 inning in two road starts.
The left-hander has pitched nearly an identical number of home and road innings this season but has allowed more than twice as many earned runs on the road. He’s allowed five home runs this season and all have come away from Busch Stadium.
Asked if he felt more comfortable pitching at home, Garcia said, “Yeah, but it’s part of the game sometimes. I just feel good at home. I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about it.”
Catcher Yadier Molina had no answer for the disturbing trend either, saying only, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
The eye-popping difference in his numbers at home and on the road are no different this year than at any other point in his career. In 85 big league games since debuting as a rookie in 2008, he’s posted a 2.42 ERA in 245 1/3 regular season innings at home. Garcia’s numbers on the road include a 4.59 ERA in a similar number of innings.
The sample size is big enough that the numbers can’t just be called a fluke. But nobody has been able to figure out just what the difference is. If they did, it would have been corrected long ago.
“You don’t ignore trends,” manager Mike Matheny said Tuesday. “The statistics are what they are. It’s data. But there’s no great explanation for it because he has good stuff. He has better than good stuff. He has great stuff and its just a matter of him maturing as a pitcher and I know he’s been around the league a while but I still think that’s part of his challenge as he moves forward.”
The problem for the Cardinals is that Garcia’s next four starts are scheduled to come on the road. As luck would have it, Garcia is slated to start Monday in San Diego, the beginning of a stretch that sees the Cardinals play 13-of-16 games away from Busch Stadium.
Should the club continue to just roll over the rotation with the upcoming off days, Garcia is scheduled to make starts in San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston before finally getting a home start against the Reds to finish the regular season.
But Matheny seems OK with that plan, at least for now. He predicted better days were ahead for Garcia away from the comforts of Busch.
“I imagine we’re going to see better outings from Jaime on the road,” Matheny said.
As their playoff push continues to heat up, the Cardinals can only hope he’s right.