How about that 20-year old left-handed staring pitcher Elniery Garcia of the Lakewood BlueClaws. Back to back seven inning shutout wins in six days over the farm teams of the Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals. Can’t do much better than that. Not too many pitchers at any level can claim to have done what Elniery just did in his last two starts in their careers.
I do remember reading about another left-hander named Johnny Vander Meer who pitched consecutive no-hitters for the Reds back in 1938. Well that gives the 20-year old Garcia something to work toward.
Elniery is one of our best friends in the Phillies organization. He asked us to come see him pitch again after we watched him win a game in Savannah, Georgia back in the first week of May. So off we went on a 12-hour drive Thursday a week ago up to Hickory, North Carolina to watch both Garcia and another great friend of ours Ranfi Casimiro pitch against the Crawdads. They did not disappoint in each picking up a win over the first half winners in the Northern division of the Sally League.
Garcia has been on fire pitching as the sixth man in the six-man Lakewood rotation all season. Including the game we watched him pitch in Savannah, he has compiled a 5-4 record with a 2.77 ERA in his last ten starts. During this time he has seven quality starts and has given up more than three earned runs in a game only once. He is pitching deep into games going 7 seven innings in four of his last ten starts to lead the Lakewood rotation in innings pitched.
Last Sunday in Hickory we watched him warm-up in the bullpen to get ready for his start. Many times you can tell what kind of outing a pitcher will have by just watching him get ready. He was hitting the Deivi Grullon targets wherever he set up. After Garcia was finished and got a fist pump from catching coach Ernie Whitt, we knew he was ready. He would go on and pitch a seven inning four hit, one walk shutout for the win. Joey DeNato would come on and pitch the final two shutout innings in the 9-0 win.
Yesterday, we listened to the game on the Internet as Garcia took on the Washington National’s farm team, the Hagerstown Suns . After several fly balls outs in the first inning Garcia got the ball down and went on to pitch seven shutout inning again. When he gets in a quick pitching tempo, he is inducing ground ball outs with his sinker, picking up a strikeout or two with his curve and staying out of trouble with command of his low 90’s fastball. He has done just that in his last two starts..
Again the BlueClaws gave him runs to work with as Garcia left with a 6-0 lead. He gave up only five hits and two walks and worked quickly. The BlueClaws have not committed an error behind him and scored 15 runs for him in his last two starts. They appear to like playing behind him and Elniery appears to like pitching before big crowds as the BlueClaws had a crowd of nearly 8,400 on July 4th, the largest of the season.
Scott Harris came on to pitch two shutout innings to seal the win. Garcia now has a 6-6 record in 13 starts for the season. In his last two shutout starts he has a strong WHIP of 0.86 and in 14 innings opponents are hitting just .188 off of him.
Garcia has already pitched more than twice as many innings this season as he has thrown in any year in his previous three pro seasons. . So far he is only getting stronger as the second half of the South Atlantic League season begins. Can’t do much better than going 2-0 by throwing 14 straight shutout innings in his first two starts of the second half.