Jaime Garcia better, but still underwhelming in Braves’ latest loss

Braves starting pitcher Jaime Garcia (54) works against the Houston Astros Wednesday, July 5, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Braves starting pitcher Jaime Garcia (54) works against the Houston Astros Wednesday, July 5, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Jaime Garcia was better, but Wednesday’s start continued a troubling trend.

Garcia, who at one point was the Braves' best starter, has wilted in recent weeks. Facing Houston, baseball's best offense, Garcia allowed five runs on 10 hits in a 10-4 loss at SunTrust Park.

“They’re playing well,” Garcia said. “But I also believe in my ability. You know, I can face any lineup and I believe in myself. … Like I said, they’re swinging the bat well. There’s still no excuses. We’ve got to get the job done and got to be better than that.”

Yet it was Garcia’s best outing in his past four trips to the mound. He’d allowed exactly seven hits and six runs in each of the previous three starts. He’s winless since May 31 (seven starts). Garcia has a 5.77 ERA over that span of 43 2/3 innings.

He’s allowed at least seven hits in each of his past six starts. Garcia had only allowed that many in two of his first 10 outings.

After a sloppy first in which Garcia managed to limit the damage to one run, he threw three shutout innings, including setting down 10 consecutive batters. But Houston figured him out in the fifth, adding three runs on four hits.

“Yeah, just that one (fifth) inning,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “… You know, he kept us in it, we came back and just, man, they just keep coming at you, coming at you and they don’t let you get away with anything. The two-out RBIs, the two-strike, two-out RBIs, they’re a really good ballclub.”

Garcia is a few months from free agency. The Braves are expected to shop him by the trade deadline, though the veteran said he'd like to re-sign and stay in Atlanta. His latest showings haven't helped either case.

He has pitched a quality outing in eight of his 16 starts this season.

There were some positives to take away from Wednesday. He looked more composed throughout the night and said he had better control of his pitches.

“A little bit of everything,” he said. “Change-up, four-seamer, two-seamer, slider, everything was good. Tough, tough game man. You know, it’s a lineup that’s pretty hot right now. You can’t make one mistake. When my team was down I didn’t get the job done again. But I have to continue to move forward and I’ve got to do a better job on the mound next time.”

Garcia helped his own cause in the fifth, plating two on a laser single past third. While Garcia didn’t think he did his job, Snitker disagreed.

“That was good,” Snitker said of Garcia’s command. “He did a good job. Kept us in the ballgame, gave us a chance, had a big (two-RBI) hit. We came back and just couldn’t hold them. I mean, it’s a tough ballgame. But he did a good job. Did exactly what we needed. We needed somebody to get us into the seventh, too, after the last few days.”

Garcia simply ran into a buzz saw. The Astros have won 20 of their past 23 road games and all seven of their matchups with a National League team (four against the Braves). Houston’s 31-9 road record is the best in the bigs.

Garcia didn’t walk any batters for the first time since June 6. It was his third start without a walk. He went seven innings for the first time since June 11, and for the fifth time this season.

“He battled the whole game,” Braves All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte said. “It’s a tough team to pitch, especially when everybody’s locked in. … It’s tough when you face a team like that …”

July is a pivotal month for the Braves and Garcia. He might be auditioning for a contender, and most certainly showcasing himself for his next contract.