As soon as Avisail Garcia swung the bat in the bottom of the eighth, he had one goal in mind: Legging out a triple.
“If the game is close in that situation, I won’t try [for the triple],” Garcia said. “But in that situation, with my team winning, I was going to try for it. And I did it.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Mud Hens vs. Indianapolis: 7-7
Garcia’s triple proved to be a key hit in the Mud Hens’ 9-7 victory over Indianapolis at Fifth Third Field Sunday. But it also was the crucial hit that put Garcia’s name in the International League record book for hitting for the cycle.
The 22-year-old outfielder doubled in the first, homered in the third and singled in the fifth, meaning the triple completed Toledo’s first cycle since Ryan Raburn turned that trick on May 27, 2007.
“He’s a special player,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said of Garcia. “That’s something we can talk about forever — and something he will remember for as long as he plays.”
For a time, it looked as if Garcia wasn’t going to get the cycle after he was called out on a check-swing third strike in the seventh.
But the Mud Hens batted around in a five-run eighth, collecting four straight one-out singles off former Hens pitcher Brooks Brown to give Garcia one more shot.
“I saw the score, and I was thinking I would get another at-bat,” Garcia said about the seventh-inning strikeout. “I just wanted to put the ball in play and see what happens.”
Sunday’s cycle was the latest twist in a roller-coaster season for the Venezuelan native. He began the season on the disabled list with a spring training injury, then joined the Hens May 1, only to be called up to Detroit less than two weeks later.
Since that time Garcia has been optioned back to Toledo three times.
As a result, Sunday was just the 13th game Garcia has played for the Hens this year.
“It hasn’t been easy [getting consistent playing time],” he said. “But you have to keep strong, work hard, and play the game hard.”
“Come down here and play every day,” Garcia said. “I’m playing hard and working hard, and I’m trying to get ready to play in the big leagues.”
Garcia has made the most of those 13 games, though, hitting .483 with a pair of homers and 10 RBIs.
“Each time he has been down here, and none of them have been for an extended period of time, he has hit the ball well,” Nevin said. “He comes down with a great attitude and he works.
“He’s a special player, and not just for the things that you see [on the field]. The way he goes about his business makes him a special player in that sense, too.”
As amazing as the cycle was, perhaps the most impressive feat for Garcia came after his single in the fifth. He got a running start and stole second base — standing up.
“We do have to work on his sliding,” Nevin said. “In all seriousness, he’s going to hurt himself if he keeps doing that.
“The way he is built, and with his size, you can’t take those chances. He’s got to learn how to slide, I’m just worried he will get hurt.”
Garcia’s big night was an important cog in Toledo’s rally from an early 4-1 deficit. His home run made the score 4-2, and his single played a role in the fifth-inning rally that tied the game. In that inning Argenis Diaz singled, moved to third on Garcia’s single, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Kevin Russo.
Garcia’s steal resulted in a throwing error by Indianapolis catcher Tony Sanchez, one of three errors by the Indians in the contest, and that brought the infield in close. That opened up a hole for Nick Castellanos, whose grounder got through the infield for an RBI double.
“With a team that pitches the way [Indianapolis does], you don’t expect to put up nine against them,” Nevin said. “But whatever kind of battle we’ve been in later, we’ve responded to.
“There were some pitches that were there to hit, and we hit them. We didn’t get down when we trailed 4-1. We took good at-bats, and it was a good night for us.”
And it was an especially good night for Garcia, who was honored by his teammates in the clubhouse with an ice-water shower.
“It was really cold, but I really enjoyed it,” Garcia said.
NOTES: The start of the game was delayed 16 minutes as the grounds crew prepared the field following a rain-filled afternoon. … Nevin was ejected for arguing the called third strike on Garcia in the seventh. … Toledo’s 17 hits marked the third time this season the team reached that total, tying a season high.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.