09/12/2002 01:06 am ET
Garcia only bright spot in M's loss
Right-hander strikes out 12 over seven solid innings
By Jim Street / MLB.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Getting a vintage performance from right-hander Freddy Garcia Wednesday night was an encouraging sign for the Mariners, but it may have come too late to do them much good this season.
A stellar Garcia performance at The Ballpark in Arlington was overshadowed by a rather bizarre ninth inning that saw the Mariners hit two doubles and not score.
The Rangers, by contrast, needed just one swing by Todd Greene in the bottom of the ninth to dance off the field with a 4-3 victory that left the losers understandably demoralized.
The effort Garcia put forth was similar to the Freddy Garcia of past seasons.
"That's the best he has thrown in a long time," manager Lou Piniella said. "He was impressive. It was good pitching, and I told him that. He had a lot of strikeouts -- a lot of good, quality pitches."
Garcia has been having a pretty rotten second half. His 4-5 record and 6.16 ERA in 11 post-All-Star Game starts has been a key factor in the Mariners falling out of the AL West lead and dipping five games behind the Wild Card-leading Angels.
But he pitched a dandy Wednesday night, holding the Rangers to six hits and three runs over seven innings; he walked only one batter and struck out 12, matching his career high.
Pitching coach Bryan Price has been working with Garcia the past five days to make a subtle chance in his windup to keep the right-hander from tipping off his pitches. Price said he didn't know how much of a factor his guidance was, but watching Garcia throw so many quality pitches was a pleasant sight.
"If the change was a byproduct of what we worked on, fine," Price said. "But for whatever reason, he commanded the bottom part of the strike zone. It was one of the best games I've seen him pitch this year."
If the Rangers knew what was coming, they didn't show it.
Price and Garcia have worked on having the pitcher's glove located behind his front [left] leg during the windup. Before, Garcia's glove was higher and apparently enabled the hitters to detect the kind of pitch Garcia was going to throw.
The only mistake he made, Price said, was a fastball to Alex Rodriguez in the sixth inning. The ball wound up in the seats in left-center field for A-Rod's 54th home run of the season and his third in this series.
"All three of them have been on pitches that were up in the 'zone,'" Price said, "and that's not where we want to pitch him."
Hank Blalock also hit a home run off Garcia, a solo shot in the second inning, but Price said the pitch was a good one. "[Garcia] wanted it up and in, and that's where it was, but [Blalock] got the big part of the bat on it."
In the end, Greene also got the big part of his bat on a pitch that reliever Arthur Rhodes delivered.
Actually, the beginning of the end came in the top of the inning, when Bret Boone dropped a leadoff double into right-center field, although Carl Everett actually misplayed a single into a double.
After Ruben Sierra, who earlier had doubled and hit a home run, struck out, Carlos Guillen lined a ball to left field. Boone was sure Todd Hollandsworth would catch it and retreated to second base, hoping to tag up and advance to third.
Hollandsworth acted like he was going to catch it, but the ball sailed over his head, hit the wall and bounced directly back to him. Boone only made it as far as third base on Guillen's double.
"With one out, you are supposed to be halfway," Piniella said. "You are not supposed to be tagging up. You are already in scoring position, and we've stressed that over and over all year."
Boone accepted the blame, saying, "I screwed up. I know that I should go halfway with one out on a ball like that, and I don't think I have ever done it [tag up] in my entire life. It cost us a run, and I feel terrible about it.
"I was 100 percent sure he was going to catch the ball, and if he makes the catch going away, I make it to third base. I take great pride in my baserunning, and there is no excuse for doing that. It was a great deke on his part, but I can't be deked."
The inning ended with Jose Offerman failing to make contact on suicide squeeze bunt on a full-count pitch. He struck out, and Boone was tagged out, the first time a Seattle squeeze has failed this season. The Mariners had been 2-for-2.
"We gave [Offerman] two swings at it and then took a shot [with the squeeze]," Piniella said.
If it had worked, the Mariners had closer Kazuhiro Sasaki ready to pitch the bottom of the ninth.
He was still in the 'pen when Greene's blast sailed into the seats.
Jim Street covers the Mariners for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of MLB or its clubs.