Griff McGarry: Garbage bullpen innings, now starting the biggest game of the year

griff mcgarry
Griff McGarry pitched seven scoreless innings in Virginia’s 4-0 win in Game 2 of the Super Regional series with Dallas Baptist. Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Griff McGarry was on the cutting room floor after a run of awful starts at the beginning of the year. Now the senior righty is starting the latest biggest game of the year for Virginia, in the winners’ bracket of the College World Series.

McGarry (0-5, 6.06 ERA, 2.05 WHIP, 61K/40BB in 35.2 IP, .225 opponent batting average) opened the 2021 season as a weekend starter for Brian O’Connor, but was out of the rotation after the April 1 loss at Georgia Tech that dropped UVA to 11-14 on the season.

He technically got one more start in the regular season, a midweek game at VCU on April 20, but that was the nadir – McGarry didn’t record a single out, walking three and hitting a batter before getting the hook after 21 pitches, only seven of which went for strikes.

His way back came through the bullpen.

O’Connor used McGarry to close out the combined 17-0 no-hitter on May 14 over Wake Forest, in which he struck out three and walked one in an otherwise clean inning, then he got another low-stress inning in the 9-2 win at Boston College on May 21, giving up a hit and walking a batter in a scoreless ninth to close that one out.

That’s two outings, two innings, in a month and a half, ahead of his surprise start on June 6 in a Columbia Regional elimination game against top seed ODU.

The final stat line for McGarry that night doesn’t stand out – he was charged for three runs in three and a third, and he was lifted after walking the bases loaded in the fourth – but we all saw the bloody blister on his right thumb that was the culprit there.

Before the blister, McGarry was lights out – striking out the first six batters he faced, eight overall – in the 8-3 win.

His performance there earned him the start in the next biggest game of the year, Game 2 of the Super Regional against Dallas Baptist, in which he pitched into the eighth, striking out 10, walking three and allowing just two hits in seven-plus scoreless innings in the 4-0 win that extended UVA’s season another day.

The last two efforts have McGarry, a 31st-round MLB draft pick out of high school in 2017, back on the draft and free-agent radar, with his impressive stuff (a fastball that touches 99, is routinely 95-97, with a plus curve and plus slider) raising the eyebrows, the only question being command.

You can see the 2021 season numbers – 40 walks in 35.2 innings, on top of his struggles in 2018 (0-2, 8.15 ERA, 22K/16BB in 17.2 IP) and 2019 (3-5, 4.56 ERA, 64K/54BB in 53.1 IP), and even in what was shaping up to be a breakthrough 2020 (3-0, 1.44 ERA, 31K/19BB in 20 IP before COVID cut the season short).

You can imagine that there will be lots of guys behind home plate aiming their radar guns and taking volumes of notes tonight in TD Ameritrade.

On the line for him personally: I’m seeing McGarry getting third-round draft love, which translates, roughly, to a signing bonus in the range of $600,000-plus.

Not bad for a guy who was only getting garbage pen innings a few weeks ago.

One other number of note heading into tonight: UVA is 2-0 in the postseason in McGarry starts.

Story by Chris Graham

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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