Originally posted on Bronx Pinstripes  |  Last updated 7/30/12

Freddy Garcia no longer has that low to mid-90′s fastball like he had when he pitched for the Seattle Mariners. He is no longer a power pitcher that relies on pure velocity to get hitters out. Now, he relies on finesse, location and guile. After struggling for most of the year, which resulted in a demotion to the bullpen, Garcia has stepped up for the Yankees in filling in for injured starters. June was his best month as a reliever, but July has been his best as a starter (2-2, 3.90 ERA, 27 Ks in 30 innings). His success can be greatly attributed to his slider usage, especially on two strike counts. Last year, he threw it in such situations 21 percent of the time – this year at 46 percent, and the numbers show results.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Garcia has almost doubled the use of his slider since returning to the rotation. In his last five starts, batters have swung and missed 30 percent of the time and struck out in just about 20 percent of their plate appearances, regardless of the count. In 2011, batters swung and missed 21 percent of the time and struck out at a rate of just 15 percent. Garcia especially has used the slider on two-strike counts. Opponents in 2011 hit .255 in at-bats ending in a slider, compared to an anemic .167 this July. Last year batters chased the slider in a two-strike count 39 percent of the time, this year 50 percent of the time.

Tonight, he will face the Baltimore Orioles, who find themselves in a pennant race for the first time in what seems like forever. Coming off a series loss to the still breathing Red Sox, the Yankees want to pad their lead in the AL East against another division rival. New York currently has a 7.5 game lead over Baltimore and Tampa Bay. In his career against Baltimore, Garcia is 6-7 with a 4.33 ERA. Adam Jones has had success against Garcia in a limited sample size. He is 5-for-12 with two doubles off the veteran right-hander. If Garcia wants to have success tonight, look for the slider to be a big part of his game-plan, especially when he has an Oriole in a two-strike count.

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