And that short memory, along with a greater knowledge of pitching to make up for a fastball without the same life as was present during his All-Star days, made possible Friday's 4-2 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field for Garcia (4-3) and the South Siders. Garcia gave up just two runs on four hits over seven innings, striking out seven and walking two, while giving the White Sox (21-27) a viable chance to win for the seventh time in his nine trips to the mound during the 2010 season.
Friday's gritty effort was a far cry from the seven runs permitted by Garcia over 2 1/3 innings against Florida, including a trio of long home runs. Games like those are just a necessary evil, according to Garcia.
"You got to be that way. You can't carry whatever happens. When you play, you got to put it on the side," Garcia said. "Throw my game."
"He's an impressive veteran guy who has been through the wars and through a whole lot of stuff," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. "That's the value of having a veteran guy out there, knowing how to pitch in those situations. He's been in every freaking one of them."
The only precarious moment for Garcia came in the sixth inning, with Ben Zobrist on first, two outs and the White Sox clinging to a 3-1 lead. Evan Longoria, who hasn't missed much in the first two games of this four-game set, launched an 0-1, 84-mph slider toward the left-field stands, with all the makings of a game-tying home run.
Longoria's drive hit the wall about five short of clearing the fence, easily scoring Zobrist, who was running on the pitch. But Garcia retired the struggling Carlos Pena on a ground ball to second baseman Gordon Beckham and came back to strike out two in a perfect seventh.
If honesty prevails, though, Garcia had to admit postgame how he thought Longoria's long drive had knotted the score at 3.
"Definitely. Yeah. That was the only mistake I made today," said Garcia with a laugh. "I was lucky the ball stayed in the park. I gave them one and got out of the inning and came back for the seventh. I wanted to throw the seventh [inning] and threw my pitches when I needed it."
"Obviously, [Garcia's] been good all year," said White Sox bench coach Joey Cora, filling in Friday for manager Ozzie Guillen, who attended the high school graduation of his son Ozney. "Other than two starts, he's been great. He not only provides us with wins, but quality innings, as well. That's a great ballclub out there, and he was unbelievable."
For those looking to update their comprehensive pitching statistics following the White Sox victory over the Rays (33-16), make Tampa Bay starter David Price's record now 7-2 overall.
That's 7-0 against the rest of baseball and 0-2 against the White Sox. Using a lineup featuring eight right-handed hitters and Juan Pierre, the White Sox produced just enough offense to upend Price's bid for his sixth straight victory.
Price limited the White Sox to four hits, but home runs from Alex Rios (No. 10) and Ramon Castro (No. 1) gave that production optimum efficiency. Rios' two-run shot provided the White Sox with a 2-1 lead in the fourth, Castro's solo blast added on to the advantage in the fifth and Beckham's clutch two-out single in the ninth scored Carlos Quentin for an insurance run, after Quentin hustled to first when catcher John Jaso was charged with a passed ball on the third strike.
"Beckham came in with a huge hit in the end. That was a great at-bat," Cora said. "Don't forget about Quentin; he did strike out, but he hustled all the way down the line and that was a huge run."
Sergio Santos worked two-thirds of an inning after Garcia, and Matt Thornton struck out three over the final 1 1/3 innings for his second save. Closer Bobby Jenks was unavailable after tweaking his right calf while running during batting practice.
It was welcome relief for Garcia, who already has exceeded the expectations held by the White Sox for him as a fifth starter. He might not top 90 mph on the speed gun, or even 85 mph on some days, but most importantly, Garcia knows how to win.
"Castro caught me and called a great game," Garcia said. "[I] threw a lot of changeups, a lot of [garbage], but sometimes you feel good and that thing works. You got to go the way the catcher tells you and you can get out of those innings, and he called a good game. I threw [the changeups] because you throw them and they swing and miss. I want to keep throwing them until they start hitting them."
"Very good changeup, nice slider, didn't really use his fastball that much," said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon of the White Sox winning pitcher. "But Freddy has readjusted to life after the 95-mph fastball, and I give him credit for that. He used to be a mid-90s guy with a great changeup off of it. Now, he's pitching primarily with his changeup and his slider. He did a great job."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less