There are really only two options for Freddy Garcia in Monday's NLDS Game 4: He's going to be the unlikely hero, the 15-year veteran and major-league castaway who musters a bit of postseason magic. Or, Garcia's going to be a punchline in another disappointing Braves postseason.
"Hey, remember that time Freddy Garcia pitched a do-or-die game for us," a random Braves fan in the future might say, "and the Dodgers clobbered us."
With their backs to the wall 2-1 in the series, the Braves are indeed giving the ball to Garcia, who turned 37 on Sunday. He'll try to stifle a Dodgers offense that scored 13 runs a night earlier. If he doesn't pitch well enough for the Braves to win the game, then that's it. They go home. Oh, and to make matters worse for Atlanta, the Dodgers announced they're throwing their ace Clayton Kershaw on short rest.
So Game 4 becomes the likely 2013 Cy Young winner vs. a past-his-prime Braves starter.
Garcia isn't one of those beloved veterans who has been with the team for a while and won the confidence of the fan base. Like Bartolo Colon.
No, Garcia was acquired by the Braves in late August for "cash considerations." He was with the Baltimore Orioles previously, where he had a 3-5 record and a 5.77 ERA in 53 innings. He spent part of the season in Triple-A. The Orioles picked up Garcia after he was released by the San Diego Padres — yes, the Padres — in spring training.
Garcia was pretty good at one point. He had a 3.05 ERA and won 18 games in 2001. More recently, he had a 3.62 ERA and 12 wins for the Yankees in 2011. But his career ERA is still an un-spectacular 4.15.
Garcia told MLB.com the 2013 season has been tough on him, but he's looking forward to his postseason start:
"That wasn't easy, man," Garcia said. "Being in Triple- A, playing in the big leagues for so long and then this year being in San Diego, Baltimore and now with the Braves, it's been hard for me — but more hard for my family. It [means] being away from my family, my kids. But now I'm here and I just can't wait till [Monday] to pitch the game."
It's easy to look at all this and say the Dodgers have a pretty good shot to close out the Braves tonight. And maybe they do.
But doesn't this have all the makings of a movie? The old veteran against the young gun. A guy finding redemption after a tough season. A team calling on experience when its back is against the wall?
Consider that Garcia has a 6-3 career postseason record with a 3.28 ERA. Included in that is a 2005 ALCS game in which Garcia, pitching for the Chicago White Sox, threw a complete game.
"Hey, remember that time Freddy Garcia pitched a do-or-die game for us," a random Braves fan in the future might say, "and he totally came through. I'll always love that guy."