LOS ANGELES – The Braves came close to trading Jaime Garcia on Thursday. Former Brave Alex Wood surely wishes they would have.
Garcia pitched seven strong innings and hit a fifth-inning grand slam off previously unbeaten Wood that gave the Braves a 9-0 lead on the way to a 12-3 win Friday night at Dodger Stadium, where they’ve won the first two in a four-game series against a team that had an 11-game winning streak before facing Atlanta.
“I’m not going to lie to you guys and say I didn’t hear about (trade rumors), because I had a lot of people reaching out to me about it,” said Garcia, who smiled more in his postgame interview than he has after all his previous Braves spring-training and regular-season starts combined.
“But to be honest I don’t really pay attention to anything that’s going on that’s out of my control. I don’t read anything that’s said about me,” he said. “I was aware there was some stuff going on, but I’m an Atlanta Brave and I’m excited that I’m still here.”
Wood, a first-time All-Star, was 11-0 with a 1.56 ERA before the Braves rocked him for nine hits, a career-high nine runs (seven earned) and two home runs in just 4 2/3 innings. His former teammate Freddie Freeman, a native of nearby Orange County, homered off Wood to start the five-run fifth.
The Braves have clinched at least a split of the series and handed the Dodgers twice as many losses in two nights as they had in their previous 19 home games (18-1). The Braves’ 12 runs Friday were the most they’ve ever scored at Dodger Stadium, which opened in 1962.
They have twice as many wins in two games this series at Dodger Stadium as they had over the 2014-2016 seasons combined, during which the Braves were 1-8 at Chavez Ravine and scored a total of 21 runs in nine games.
The Dodgers were on a 31-4 tear before this series and hadn’t lost consecutive games since a three-game skid June 4-6.
Garcia (4-7) allowed seven hits, three runs and one walk with four strikeouts hits in seven innings, driving in more runs than he allowed by hitting a two-out, 0-2 grand slam off Wood.
‘Very impressed how (Garcia) just put everything aside and did his job,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “And was really good again, just like he was on Sunday (Garcia allowed one run in seven innings of a Sunday win against Arizona.) That’s pretty impressive how he separated everything and stayed focused and gave us a great start.”
He’s just the second Atlanta-era Braves pitcher to hit a grand slam, joining Tony Cloninger, who had the remarkable feat of hitting two grand slams in one game in July 1966 at San Francisco.
The Braves were deep in trade discussions Thursday on a proposal to send Garcia to the Twins, but the deal stalled and the Braves were believed to be talking with at least one other team in addition to Minnesota on Friday as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline looms. If this was Garcia’s final start as a Brave, it was a memorable one to put it mildly.
Wood didn’t make it out of the fifth inning, exiting after the particularly loud slam by Garcia on an 0-2 pitch, the third homer of Garcia’s career and his first since Oct. 1, 2012. Tyler Flowers added a mammoth three-run homer in the sixth inning, a 447-foot drive to straight center field on a 0-2 pitch from reliever Grant Dayton.
Asked about Garcia’s performance including his grand slam, Flowers smiled and said, “Yeah, how ‘bout that? That’s pretty good. I was at second (base) and I was like, man, that sounded really good. You certainly don’t expect it, especially here at night. He did a great job battling in that at-bat, too. A lot of pitchers get in that spot, down 0-2, and they just kind of waive at it and get it over. But he was grinding and he got rewarded for that.”
No one could have expected anything remotely like what has transpired over two nights at Dodger Stadium. So hot have the Dodgers been, they still have the majors’ best record (66-31) and best home record (39-13), but the Braves made a statement about their intentions of being a factor at least in the wild-card playoff race.
After fighting to get their record to .500, the Braves were swept by the Cubs in a three-game home series this week.
“We fought hard against the Cubs; they were just hot too,” Flowers said. “They were swinging it. Now our pitching set the tone in the first two games here, the starters did a good job getting deep in the games and shutting them down after we score some runs. Jumping on them early is always a good thing, too.”
The Dodgers won won 18 of 19 at home before losing twice to the Braves before stunned crowds in excess of 46,000.
Wood gave up eight earned runs and 15 hits in a three-start span April 21 to May 2 after moving full-time into the Dodgers rotation, but in 10 starts since he had allowed just six runs and one homer in 62 innings while going 9-0 with a 0.87 ERA and .164 opponents’ average.
He allowed more than one run once in that span. The Braves had four hits and two runs before he recorded his third out.
Ender Inciarte started the game with an infield hit and scored when rookie Johan Camargo followed with a line-drive double over the head of center fielder Kike Hernandez. Two outs later, Flowers singled to push the lead to 2-0.
“I would assume it wasn’t (Wood’s) best command,” Flowers said. “In my at-bats at least he fell behind, so that makes you a little more susceptible to finding some barrels. But we had good approach, obviously, and took advantage of the mistakes when we got them.”
In the fourth inning Wood made a costly error with two on and two out. He dropped a pop-fly by Garcia — yes, him again — just inside the first-base line, scoring both runners.
Freeman led off the fifth with an opposite-field homer on a 2-2 pitch, his 18th in his 51st game. Freeman has four homers and 13 RBIs in 14 games since returning from a seven-week stint on the disabled list for a fractured wrist, and the Braves are 7-7 in that rigorous stretch of games against the Astros, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Cubs and Dodgers.
Matt Kemp followed Freeman with a single and Flowers walked. One out later, Wood intentionally walked Sean Rodriguez to load the bases. Dansby Swanson struck out before Garcia became the first Braves pitcher to hit a home run since Mike Minor at Wrigley Field on July 12, 2014.
Garcia was the fourth different Braves pitcher to have at least four RBIs in a game since the team moved to Atlanta and the first since Phil Niekro in 1979.
Wood hadn’t allowed more than six runs or five earned runs since Sept. 27, 2015, when he was charged with 11 hits and a career-high eight earned runs in 5 1/3 innings at Colorado, two months after the Braves traded him to the Dodgers.
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