Chicago Cubs

Garza blames himself, but gets no breaks

454475.jpg

Garza blames himself, but gets no breaks

Monday, April 25, 2011
Posted: 10:19 p.m. Updated: 12:40 a.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Matt Garza only blamed himself, though it would have been easy to look around and focus on what else went wrong.

Mike Quade tapped his fingers while sitting at the same table in the interview room. The manager didnt pretend to give a positive spin. He spit out words like awful and bad into the microphone.

You believe Garza when he says that personal statistics dont matter. He views his job as pitching deep into games and working late into October. But this has to be frustrating for someone so intensely competitive.

Garza is still waiting for his first win in a Cubs uniform after Mondays 5-3 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of an announced crowd of 37,417 that was much smaller than that on a miserable night at Wrigley Field.

We lost because I couldnt throw a ball to first base, Garza said afterward. I throw the ball to first base, its a 3-3 game and were still playing. This is the big leagues, man. You cant do anything like that.

Garza played back the fifth inning in his mind. It began with a bunt single and a walk before Garza brushed back Jonathan Herrera as he squared up to bunt.

Herrera responded by dropping a perfect bunt. Garza fielded it and threw the ball into the seats, where it ricocheted back onto the field. That opened up a two-run inning for the Rockies (15-7).

That goes right on my shoulders, Garza said.

Garza did not identify Starlin Castros three errors in the second inning as the turning point. He did not mention 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position or the 12 men left on base. It certainly bothered his manager.

If youre gonna get beat, youd at least not like to gift-wrap the damn thing for the opposition, Quade said. Its great to have talent (and) exciting kids, great to play like a son-of-gun. But if you cant execute (and) make plays (and) tack on a few runsyoure gonna get beat on a regular basis.

You out-hit a club 11-4 and you get beat by two runs I dont think you need to say much more than that.

The Cubs set a major-league record by hitting the .500 mark 10 times on the way to 10-10. Until Garza, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano start clicking, they will win one game, lose another or worse.

Wed like to not be hanging around, Quade said. Wed like to be five, six over (.500), but I think I understand the reasons were not.

Weve hit the ball well, (but) we havent driven the ball out of the ballpark the way I think were going to. Does the weather have something to do with that? Sure, but it still goes back to getting our pitching straightened out. Im convinced of that.

The Cubs (10-12) watched Darwin Barney smack the first homer of his career, a two-run shot that landed in the left-field basket in the first inning. They also got a career night from Kosuke Fukudome, who had five hits and raised his on-base percentage to .571.

It wasnt nearly enough on a night with this many defensive breakdowns. It fell into the pattern for Garza (0-3, 4.11).

Garza notched 12 strikeouts and allowed 12 hits in his Cubs debut only to have closer Carlos Marmol lose the game in the ninth inning.

Combined the Cubs were outscored 11-0 in Garzas next two starts. Garza then threw six shutout innings last week, but had a victory taken away when Marmol blew another save before the Cubs won in extra innings.

Garza finished with another weird pitching line. He accounted for six innings, gave up three hits, struck out seven and walked only one. But he was charged with five runs one earned.

Hes definitely in form right now and its too bad we cant get the win for him, Barney said. When you got a guy like him on the mound thats an absolute competitor, you want to do everything in your power to help him out. He knows were behind him trying as hard as we can to pick him up.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Joe Maddon finally sees Cubs playing with the right 'mental energy'

joe_maddon_cubs.jpg
USA TODAY

Joe Maddon finally sees Cubs playing with the right 'mental energy'

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Joe Maddon looked back on the perfect baseball storm that hit the Tampa Bay Rays and played all the greatest hits for local reporters, waxing poetic about the banners hanging inside Tropicana Field, stumping for a new stadium on the other side of the Gandy Bridge, telling Don Zimmer stories, namedropping Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and riffing on sabermetrics and information buckets.

But the moment of clarity came in the middle of a media session that lasted 20-plus minutes, Maddon sitting up on stage in what felt like the locker room at an old CYO gym: “We only got really good because the players got really good.”

There’s no doubt the Cubs have the talent to go along with all the other big-market advantages the Rays could only dream about as the have-nots in the American League East. Now it looks like the defending champs have finally got rid of the World Series hangover, playing with the urgency and pitch-to-pitch focus that had been lacking at times and will be needed again in October.    

Maddon essentially admitted it after Tuesday’s 2-1 victory, watching his team beat Chris Archer and work together on a one-hitter that extended the winning streak to seven games and kept the Milwaukee Brewers 3.5 games back in the National League Central.

“You’re really seeing them try to execute in moments,” Maddon said. “When they come back and they don’t get it done, it’s not like they’re angry. But you can just see they’re disappointed in themselves.

“Their mental energy is probably at an all-season-high right now.”

Six days after the Cubs moved him to the bullpen, lefty swingman Mike Montgomery took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, when Tampa Bay’s No. 9 hitter (Brad Miller) drove a ball over the center-field wall. Maddon then went to the relievers he will trust in October – Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Wade Davis – with the All-Star closer striking out the side in the ninth inning and remaining perfect in save opportunities (32-for-32) as a Cub.       

“We want to go out there and prove every day that we’re the best team in baseball,” said Kyle Schwarber, the designated hitter who launched Archer’s 96-mph fastball into the right-center field seats for his 28th home run in the second inning. “The way our guys are just going out there and competing, it’s really good to see, especially this time of year. It’s getting to crunch time, and we just got to keep this same pace that we’re going at.

“Don’t worry about things around us. Just keep our heads down, keep worrying about the game and go from there.”     

In what’s been a season-long victory lap, Maddon couldn’t help looking back when the sound system started playing The Beach Boys and “Good Vibrations” echoed throughout the domed stadium, a tribute running on the video board and a crowd of 25,046 giving him a standing ovation.

“It was cool,” Maddon said. “I forgot about the bird, the cockatoo, I can’t remember the name. Really a cool bird. I told (my wife) Jaye I wanted one of those for a while. But then again, she gets stuck taking care of them.

“I was just thinking about all the things we did. You forget sometimes that snake. I think her name was Francine, like a 19-year-old, 20-footer. And then the penguin on my chair. You forget all the goofy stuff you did. But you can see how much fun everybody had.

“I appreciated it. They showed all my pertinent highlights. There’s none actually as a player. It’s primarily as a zookeeper.”

But within the last week, you can see the Cubs getting more serious, concentrating on their at-bats and nailing their pitches. There is internal competition for roster spots and playing time in the postseason, when Maddon becomes ruthless and doesn’t care at all about making friends. This just might be another perfect storm.

Montgomery – who notched the final out in the 10th inning of last year’s World Series Game 7 – put it this way: “I feel ready for anything after how this year’s gone.” 

Are Cubs lining up Jake Arrieta to start Game 1 vs. Nationals?

Are Cubs lining up Jake Arrieta to start Game 1 vs. Nationals?

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Are the Cubs lining up Jake Arrieta to start Game 1 against the Washington Nationals?

“I’m not even anywhere near that,” manager Joe Maddon said during Tuesday’s pregame media session with the Chicago media, immediately shifting his focus back to the decisions he would have to make that night – how hard to push catcher Willson Contreras coming off the disabled list, what the Cubs would get out of lefty Mike Montgomery, how the bullpen sets up – against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“Players can do that kind of stuff. I don’t think managers can. Honestly, I don’t want to say I don’t care about that. I just don’t worry about that, because there’s nothing to worry about yet. Because first of all, he’s got to be well when he pitches, too.”

Arrieta had just completed a throwing session at Tropicana Field and declared himself ready to face the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday at Miller Park. That would be the Cy Young Award winner’s first start since suffering a Grade 1 right hamstring strain on Labor Day. It would set him up to face the St. Louis Cardinals next week at Busch Stadium and start Game 162 against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.

“The plan is to be out there Thursday,” said Arrieta, who would be limited to 75-80 pitches against the Brewers and build from there, trying to recapture what made him the National League pitcher of the month for August. “The good thing is the arm strength is there – it’s remained there – and I actually feel better for maybe having a little bit of time off.

“The idea is to be able to be out there the last game against Cincinnati – pretty much at full pitch count – and to be ready for the playoffs.”

Five days after that would be the beginning of the NL divisional round and what could be a classic playoff series between the defending champs and Dusty Baker’s Nationals. The Cubs started Jon Lester in Game 1 for all three playoff rounds during last year’s World Series run and their $155 million ace could open a Washington series with an extra day of rest.

“It’s inappropriate to talk about that now,” team president Theo Epstein said. “We have a lot of work to do, and those would be the guys that would help get us there in the first place. If you’re lucky enough to get into that situation, you’d just use all the factors. You guys all know – who’s going the best, who matches up the best, the most experienced – and we figure it out and go from there. But we’re still a good ways away from figuring that one out.”