In order to become the first pitcher in the majors to win eight games, Freddy Garcia will have to overcome his past struggles at the Rogers Centre, where the Chicago White Sox open a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday.
Garcia (7-1, 3.92 ERA) is looking to win his eighth straight decision and improve to 8-1 for the first time since 2001, when he went 11-1 with the Seattle Mariners and was selected to the All-Star team. Arizona’s Brandon Webb and Tampa Bay’s Scott Kazmir will also try for their eighth win on Friday.
The right-hander will be making his first start in Toronto as a member of the White Sox (31-15) after two poor outings with the Mariners in 2001 and 2002. Garcia was tagged for 10 runs and 11 hits over 10 2-3 innings of those two starts, going 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA.
Garcia, though, is coming off one of his best performances of the season, scattering eight hits in eight shutout innings of a 7-0 win Saturday over the Chicago Cubs.
“He’s working ahead in the count, and when he’s behind in the count, he’s throwing the breaking ball for strikes,” said White Sox catcher Chris Widger. “He’s moving his fastball in and out. When you can do that and have Freddy’s stuff, you are going to be very successful.”
Garcia, who is 6-3 with a 5.27 ERA in 12 lifetime starts against the Blue Jays, has pitched well against Blue Jays power hitter Troy Glaus, who is 7-for-42 (.167) with 14 strikeouts against him.
The Blue Jays (25-21) will counter with Ted Lilly (4-4, 4.15), who looks to bounce back from his shortest outing of 2006. The left-hander lasted only 1 2-3 innings Sunday, giving up five runs in a 5-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies.
“This was a very poor performance,” Lilly said. “I looked up at the scoreboard after the second out of the inning and I had thrown 80 pitches and that’s ridiculous.”
Lilly was hit hard for six runs and six hits, including three home runs over 1 2-3 innings of a 10-7 loss in his last outing against the White Sox at the Rogers Centre. The southpaw has given up eight homers in 33 innings lifetime against Chicago.
One of the homers was hit by Juan Uribe, who is 3-for-7 (.429) with two homers and four RBIs against Lilly.
“Hermie (White Sox athletic trainer Herm Schneider) said his eyes and nose are fine and there are no broken bones,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who jokingly added, “Hermie also told me his brain is fine. I told Hermie he’s lying to me. I don’t need him to lie.”
Chicago’s Rob Mackowiak has gone 14-for-31 (.452) in the last 11 games, providing Guillen with surprising offense to go with the defensive versatility that led to the White Sox signing him in the offseason.
“Mack, the way he’s swinging the bat now, he’ll get more playing time. It might be center field, he might play right or left one day,” Guillen said. “Obviously he’s going to be there.”
The Blue Jays enter the series taking two of three against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but failed to sweep the series with a 10-8 loss on Wednesday. Josh Towers gave up four runs and six hits and failed to get out of the second inning of the loss.
Toronto starters have a 6.59 ERA in their last six games, with opponents hitting .325 with six homers in a span that covers 28 2-3 innings.
The White Sox won two of three games from the Blue Jays in Chicago last month, and Garcia pitched all five innings of a rain-shortened 6-4 win in the deciding game.