Cubs counting on a strong return by Garza

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Cubs counting on a strong return by Garza

NASHVILLE, Tenn. One year from now, Matt Garza could be the type of big-game pitcher that teams are fighting over at the winter meetings.

But that presumes Garzas completely healthy and puts together the type of monster season the Cubs believe hes capable of having.

Garzas expected to begin throwing within the next several days as he recovers from the stress reaction in his right elbow. The Cubs met with his agents here at the Gaylord Opryland and have received good reports from their medical staff. Signs are pointing to him being in the Opening Day rotation.

His mood, his optimism seems really good, and sometimes you have to gauge a lot based on that, general manager Jed Hoyer said Tuesday. He was pretty down in July and early August. You could tell he knew there was something wrong with him. Now you get the sense that hes excited to get going and start his real rehab.

His mood is hopefully indicative of a totally healthy guy that can be ready to go in spring training.

Theres nothing subtle about Garza, from his tattoos to his money quotes to the shaving-cream pies he liked to slam into teammates faces during postgame television interviews. His state of mind is telling.

You know Garza, manager Dale Sveum said. He cant wait to get back on the mound. (But) right now, hes at baby steps.

The Cubs shut down Garza in the second half of last season and didnt push his return with the team so far out of contention. Even if he had pitched into September, this is still roughly the time hed start cranking it up and throwing again.

The Cubs would love to see Garza channel all that intensity in the right direction and become a complete pitcher. That means finishing hitters and fielding his position. (Remember all those wild throws to first base winding up in the stands?) In what looks like his final season before hitting free agency, there will be plenty of motivation.

Hes the type of pitcher thats a frontline guy that can and should be a No. 1, No. 2 (starter), Sveum said. But he has to get to that level of winning and not giving games away with that kind of stuff, and he knows that. Hell be the first one to tell you theres something that always gets in the way of domination.

Preview: Cubs aim for sweep tonight on CSN

Preview: Cubs aim for sweep tonight on CSN

The Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

First pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies is scheduled for 6 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (0-0, 2.66 ERA) vs. Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 7.94 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

Kyle Hendricks outduels Gerrit Cole in Cubs win

Kyle Hendricks outduels Gerrit Cole in Cubs win

PITTSBURGH (AP) Kyle Hendricks rediscovered his 2016 form, limiting the Pittsburgh Pirates to four hits over six innings to outduel Gerrit Cole and lead the Chicago Cubs to a 1-0 win on Tuesday night.

Hendricks (2-1) struck out two and walked three in easily his best start this year. The struggling Pirates managed just four singles off Hendricks and didn't reach third base until he was out of the game. Wade Davis worked a perfect ninth for his fifth save as the Cubs won for the sixth time in seven games.

Addison Russell doubled in the second off Cole (1-3) and scored when second baseman Alen Hanson airmailed first base on a Jason Heyward grounder, the Pirates' major league-high 20th error this season. They've also allowed 15 unearned runs, the most in the big leagues.

The miscue spoiled a terrific outing by Cole. He struck out eight without issuing a walk and retired 14 of his final 15 batters. It wasn't enough for Pittsburgh, which has lost six of eight.

Hendricks became the first Cubs pitcher in nearly 80 years to lead the majors in ERA last year (2.13) but entered at 6.19 after three lackluster starts. It dropped to 4.50 after he spent six innings keeping the Pirates off balance with a steady diet of breaking balls and changeups .

It was the second straight strong start for the defending World Series champions, who have spent the last week riding their offense to shake out of an early pitching funk. The Cubs' pitching did the heavy lifting while Cole dominated the highest-scoring team in the majors.

Russell's double and a two-out infield hit by Kris Bryant in the sixth was all the Cubs managed against the Pittsburgh ace, who is hoping to put an injury plagued 2016 behind him. After giving up five runs in a loss to Boston on opening day, Cole has surrendered just seven runs over his last 25 innings, a 2.52 ERA.

Pittsburgh had a chance to tie the score when John Jaso led off the seventh with a double against Koji Uehara. Jaso advanced to third on a fly ball but was stranded when Hanson struck out and pinch-hitter Jose Osuna flied to center.