Even when things could have taken a bad turn on Tuesday night, Rico Garcia was never going to stray from his "bulldog mentality." Keeping with the mind-set from pitch one all the way to a season-high 102, he navigated around trouble to reach a new plateau.The Rockies' No. 21 prospect fanned
Even when things could have taken a bad turn on Tuesday night, Rico Garcia was never going to stray from his "bulldog mentality." Keeping with the mind-set from pitch one all the way to a season-high 102, he navigated around trouble to reach a new plateau.
The Rockies' No. 21 prospect fanned a career-best 11, allowing four hits over a season-high 6 2/3 innings, as Double-A Hartford blanked Portland, 4-0, at Dunkin' Donuts Park. Over his last three outings, Garcia has thrown 15 2/3 consecutive scoreless frames.
"I felt good, I trusted Chris [Iannetta], he was catching me tonight," Garcia said. "Having him back there was a huge confidence boost. I trusted him and threw my pitches and I trusted my teammates behind me. They helped me out of a lot close jams."
In the right-hander's previous outing at Portland on Wednesday, he put up five zeros while allowing three hits and striking out six. Tuesday's home start proved even better for the Hawaii native, who threw 70 strikes.
Getting to work with the veteran Iannetta, who's rehabbing a strained right lat muscle, added a positive impact to the outing, Garcia said. Even if the backstop didn't have as much knowledge of Eastern League hitters as he does of NL West foes, he still helped devise a game plan and kept Garcia in line for a career night. With 14 years of Major League expertise, it was hard not to listen to the catcher.
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"It was a great experience," Garcia said. "Even though he didn't really face these guys before, he still called a great game. He read hitters, he went over the scouting report before and it kind of all just came together."
Having the previous scoreless outing against Portland in hand helped, but the hurler said he looked to deviate from what he did in the previous outing by mixing in his off-speed stuff.
With that in mind, it didn't take long for Garcia to find his stride as he retired the first seven batters. Jhon Nunez ended the run with a one-out single in the third, but the 25-year-old struck out Aneury Tavárez and No. 22 Red Sox prospectMarcus Wilson to close the inning.
"I had my recent scouting report, but at the same time I didn't want to do the exact same thing," Garcia said. "I just wanted to mix my pitches a little bit more and keep them off-balance and not repeat the game plan this time around, and I think it paid off. ... I definitely felt in a groove, but there were some pitches I wish I could take back, but they just so happened to turn out in my favor. I still have to grind it out and pitch, not just throw."
Tate Matheny and Luke Tendler ripped one-out singles in the fifth to put pressure on Garcia. But after a visit from pitching coach Steve Merriman got the starter's mechanics back in check, he got Nunez to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
Tavarez led off the sixth with a triple, but Garcia struck out Wilson and Brett Netzer before Red Sox No. 9 prospect C.J. Chatham grounded out to second.
"A lot of times when things really don't go my way, I use that to my advantage and motivate myself," Garcia said. "When he hit that leadoff triple, I just kept telling myself, 'I'm not going to let this guy score -- whatever it takes.' And then it worked out to my favor."
Back out for the seventh for the first time since Aug. 20, the 2016 30th-round pick fanned third-ranked Bobby Dalbec after an 11-pitch battle and Jerry Downs after eight more pitches before righty Rayan González finished off the shutout, allowing a hit and a walk with three strikeouts over the final 2 1/3 innings.
Garcia lowered his ERA to a season-best 1.82 and his WHIP to 1.05. He pitched a pair of 10-strikeout games, but the 11 on Tuesday not only gave him a career high, it set a Yard Goats single-game record.
"It was a great feeling. I didn't really think about [the strikeouts], I kind of took it just batter by batter, pitch by pitch," Garcia said. "Dalbec and Downs, they had great, long at-bats in that last inning that kind of drove me out of my pitch count. I had to finish strong. I knew that was going to be my last inning one way or another.
"I didn't even know I broke that [team] record until after the game. Just to be able to accomplish that is a great feeling. I definitely have to thank my teammates for that because they played a huge part, getting critical outs. It was a great feeling to keep it going."
Second-ranked Rockies prospect Colton Welker went 2-for-3 with an RBI double, while Manuel Melendez crushed his second homer of the season.
Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt.