Phillies face Jaime Garcia at the worst possible time

Phillies face Jaime Garcia at the worst possible time

April 19, 2013, 10:30 am
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What do you want first, the good news or the bad news?

Let’s go with the good news first, since you need some when it comes to the Phillies: The streak of four straight games without a walk will almost certainly end Friday night.

Pitching for the Cardinals is Jaime Garcia, who has absolutely shut the Phils down but has 11 walks in five career starts against them. He’s issued at least one walk in 86 percent of his starts. And no team has gone five straight games without a walk since 1920, so the odds are on the Phillies’ side.

But here’s the bad news: The team-wide offensive funk will likely continue Friday, because this team doesn’t hit lefties and hasn’t been able to touch Garcia.

We all intuitively know that these Phillies struggle against left-handed pitching, but the problems run much, much deeper than you probably imagine.

The Phillies are hitting .131 this season against lefties. Guess where that ranks in MLB. They have a .180 OBP, a .190 slugging percentage and have scored two runs against lefties. Guess where those numbers rank in MLB.

It’s nothing new, either. Last year’s Phillies hit .235 against lefties with a .300 OBP. Both were the second-worst ranks in the last 23 years among teams that had many ABs against lefties as the 2012 Phils.

A pitcher like Garcia has been especially tough for them to hit. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are 1 for 20 off him. Ryan Howard, who is out of the lineup, is 2 for 12 with six strikeouts.

John Mayberry is 4 for 9 against Garcia with two doubles. His teammates are 4 for 40 with one extra-base hit.

It’s odd because while Garcia is deceptive, he’s not the type of southpaw who stifles lefties. His platoon splits dating back to 2010 are just about even, and this season lefties are 6 for 18 off him while righties are hitting .167.

Garcia had a 0.96 ERA in his first four starts against the Phillies. He also shut them out over 6 2/3 innings in the 2011 NLDS until Ben Francisco's memorable pinch-hit three-run homer. The one time they did get to him was last May 26, when they scored four runs in six innings. But the only Phillies left from that lineup are Rollins, Mayberry and Freddy Galvis.

Mayberry will definitely play tonight, likely batting sixth. But moving him up to the two-hole against Garcia wouldn’t be the worst idea. Nobody else on this team has hit him, so why not give the most possible plate appearances to the one guy who has?