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Jaime Garcia helps Braves in more ways than one

ATLANTA, GA Ð JULY 05: AtlantaÕs Jaime Garcia delivers a pitch to the plate during a game between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves on July 5, 2017 at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

ATLANTA — Jaime Garcia did all he could on Sunday to help the Atlanta Braves. He allowed just one run over seven innings while striking out seven to hold down the Arizona Diamondbacks en route to a 7-1 win, giving the Braves a .500 record and increased optimism regarding a playoff chase.

He also increased his trade value.

It was best-case scenario for the Braves, who are looking at two good options should Garcia continue to pitch like this. They either keep him and he presumably helps whatever playoff chances the Braves have, or he drives up the price on return as a team in a better position than Atlanta looks for that late-season boost.

“He’s far and away the best rental on the market,” a scout from an AL team said. “He has as much late movement on his fastball as anyone in the game, and he can sink it or cut it. He’s tough against left-handed hitters, and he has playoff experience. He just dominated a team headed to the playoffs.”

Garcia didn’t face much adversity against a D-backs lineup that, though struggling, is still fifth in the NL in runs per game. He was unharmed by a first-inning walk to Paul Goldschmidt before back-to-back 1-2-3 innings in the second and third.

In the fourth, David Peralta reached on an infield hit and advanced to second on a Garcia throwing error. Goldschmidt singled to drive him in and Ketel Marte walked with two outs, but Garcia escaped by striking out Daniel Descalso to preserve the lead.

ATLANTA, GA - JUNE 06: Braves starting pitcher Jaime Garcia delivers a pitch to the plate during a game between the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies on June 6, 2017 at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire)

He allowed baserunners in the fifth, sixth and seventh, but no one reached second base.

It’ll help other teams and the Braves forget about his last four starts. During that stretch, his ERA rose from 3.16 to 4.55. He allowed five runs or more in each of those four starts after not allowing more than four runs all season. Those four starts followed a string of five starts in a row of Garcia throwing at least 6.2 innings without allowing more than three runs.

Plenty of teams are interested, as evidenced by the number of scouts in attendance to see him pitch on Sunday. With the threat of opting in to his long-term deal, Johnny Cueto can’t be considered a rental. The Rangers don’t seem to be entertaining the idea of trading Yu Darvish. Alex Cobb isn’t going anywhere with the Rays in contention, and neither is Jason Vargas, because the Royals say they’re buyers.

As always, of course, there’s a price for the Braves to sell Garcia instead of letting him walk at the end of the season without getting anything in return. Yet they don’t have to trade him. They can keep him and ride out a playoff run, even if the players in the clubhouse are the only ones who believe they have a chance.

If Atlanta were to trade him, they could do so while replacing him with a Matt Wisler or potentially Lucas Sims without punting whatever chance they have. The Braves’ front office will also be realistic with their chances as they continue to keep an eye on playoff spots and the coming championship window they believe they have, not just finishing at or above .500.

Either way, plenty of people noticed what Garcia did on Sunday, whether it was the players in the clubhouse celebrating a sweep or a team looking for a piece to push them into October.

*****

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