With trade speculation swirling, it was surprising to even see Jaime Garcia make his scheduled start against the Dodgers on Friday night.
But then the Braves left-hander went and put on a show … and it wasn’t just with his arm.
In the midst of limiting the Dodgers offense to three runs through seven impressive innings in Atlanta’s 12-3 win, Garcia did something the franchise hasn’t seen since 1966 when he delivered a grand slam off All-Star Alex Wood in the fifth inning.
“That’s pretty good. I’m not going to lie,” Garcia said. “I usually don’t smile a lot with (media), but that was pretty unbelievable. I never hit a grand slam in my life, even when I was in Little League, so that was pretty cool.
The last Atlanta pitcher to pull off that feat was Tony Cloninger, who hit two grand slams on July 3, 1966. In the modern era Lew Burdette (1958), George Ferguson (1910) and Patsy Flaherty (1907) are the franchise’s only other pitchers to hit a grand slam, and he’s Atlanta’s fourth arm to drive in four in a game, and the first since Phil Niekro on Sept. 26, 1979.
“I was at second and I was thinking ‘That sounded really good,'” said Braves catcher Tyler Flowers told FOX Sports South’s Kelsey Wingert after the game. “But I know how it is here, especially at night. You never know. You can hammer some balls and they don’t go anywhere. Good for him, though. He did a good job battling in that at-bat. A lot of pitchers might just give in with two strikes … he grinded it out and he got rewarded for that.”
For Garcia — whose blast came on a 90-mph two-seam fastball on an 0-2 count — it was the third home run of his career, with the last coming in 2012 when he was with the Cardinals. He also hit one in ’11.
Wood entered the night having not given up a home run to left-handed hitter all season. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman broke through with the first in the top of the fifth, then sixth batters later, Garcia added another.
"I never hit a grand slam in my life, even when I was in Little League, so that was pretty cool." – Jaime Garcia on HR vs. Dodgers. #Bravespic.twitter.com/OmNysNWxrn
Garcia, who struck out four and walked one over 91 pitches, while scattering seven hits, went is 1 for 3 in the game at the plate. He reached in the fourth when Wood misplayed a popup, driving in Nick Markakis and Sean Rodriguez to give the Braves a 4-0 lead — his grand slam made it 9-0 — and he also drew a walk in the seventh inning.
“He just kept pounding the strike zone and getting ahead of hitters,” said Atlanta manager Brian Snitker. “You could just tell … the look in his eye. He just stayed aggressive and was tuned in to what he was doing.”
The lefty has been rumored to be going to the Twins, and that transaction appeared to be nearing completion on Thursday night. But reports say there have been other bidders joining the conversations, and a deal with Minnesota could be off.
“I’m not going to lie to you guys that I didn’t hear about it, because I had a lot of people reach out to me about it,” Garcia said. “But to be honest, I really don’t pay attention to anything that’s going on. It’s out of my control. I don’t have any social media. I don’t read anything that’s written about me.
“I was aware there was some stuff going on, but I’m an Atlanta Braves and I’m still excited I’m still here.”
Garcia, who is 3-7 with a 4.22 ERA on the season, has been among the majors’ most effective ground-ball pitchers in ’17. His 54.7 rate ranks seventh and he’s been at or above 60 percent in his last two outings, including a 62.5 rate on July 16 vs. the Diamondbacks.
Friday in Los Angeles, Garcia had a 65.2 percent GB rate vs. a Dodgers team that came in with the game’s fourth-lowest ground ball production over the last 30 days (40.4). That GB rate was Garcia’s lowest since he was at 81 percent on May 31 against the Angels.