Garza blames himself, but gets no breaks

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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.

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Kris Bryant ignites World Series nostalgia with Cubs' epic eighth-inning comeback

“Reminded me a lot of a play in the World Series.”

Kris Bryant wasn’t the only one with World Series nostalgia Saturday afternoon at the Friendly Confines. The tens of thousands of Cubs fans losing their minds over the North Siders’ eighth-inning comeback made that very clear.

Bryant, though, was the one who provided it, first driving in the game-tying run mere moments after the visiting St. Louis Cardinals smashed open a pitchers duel with back-to-back homers off Jon Lester in the top of the eighth. Bryant then got a head starts and came around all the way from first, scoring the game-winning run on a ball Anthony Rizzo dumped into the left-center field gap so perfectly he couldn’t have thrown it there any better.

Bryant slid in — feet first — beating the throw home from ex-teammate Dexter Fowler. Cue the hysteria at Clark and Addison.

“Me, honestly, I was just trying to go up the middle. I think that’s kind of where I’ve been struggling this year is with guys on base I want to do too much. Just seeing through the middle. Bat broke and flew, I don’t know where it went, but it flew somewhere. That was huge,” Bryant explained after the game.

“And then obviously with Rizz having a good at-bat off a tough lefty. I don't know if Dexter or Tommy Pham got a good read or if they were way back at the track, but right when he hit it I didn’t see them anywhere close to it so I thought there was a pretty good chance that I could score.”

Bryant’s very presence in the Cubs’ starting lineup was the headline before the game, the “freak of nature” returning from a jammed finger after missing only one game. So of course it was the reigning National League MVP who played the biggest role, flipping the script from his sick day by being right in the middle of the Cubs’ eighth-inning explosion. It was the eighth inning where the Cardinals staged their game-defining rally Friday.

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Manager Joe Maddon went as far as saying that perhaps only Bryant could have made the play he did, scoring from first base on what went down as a Rizzo double.

“KB being able to play was the difference in today’s game,” Maddon said. “A combination of the hit and his speed. I don’t think anybody else scores on that. Maybe Jason (Heyward), possibly. (Ian) Happ, possibly. But KB is such a good base runner. He had it in his head the moment the ball was hit, and all (third base coach Gary) Jones had to do was wave his arm. You can’t underestimate the importance of one person in the lineup.

“He’s a very bright base runner. He’s shown that from the beginning. … He demonstrated that early on, and for me when a young player demonstrates awareness on the bases, man, that’s a good baseball player.”

All that talent made Bryant last season’s Most Valuable Player and one of the most important figures in the curse-breaking World Series championship.

Bryant mentioned he thought Saturday’s game-winning trip from first to home conjured memories of a similar play in Game 7 of last fall’s World Series, when Bryant went first to home on Rizzo’s base hit off Andrew Miller in the fifth inning.

“Reminded me a lot of a play in the World Series off of Andrew Miller. It was a full count there, started early,” Bryant said. “Rizz hit it, you’ve got to give him a ton of credit, worked a great at-bat. But the head start really does help. It's something that I take pride in is my base running, surprising people. Hopefully I did that today.”

With Bryant back in the lineup Saturday, Kyle Hendricks’ return to the rotation coming Monday, a now 7-1 record since the All-Star break and a bunched-up NL Central that had four teams within three and a half games of each other entering Saturday’s action, it’s no wonder the World Series feeling is making its way back to the North Side.

All season long, fans and observers have been waiting for that switch to flip, and maybe it finally has.

The bats were thunderous on that six-game road trip out of the All-Star break, with 16 home runs helping the Cubs to back-to-back sweeps of the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves. Friday’s loss to the Cardinals provided plenty of evidence that the rest of the season might feature a knock-down, drag-out slugfest between the four NL Central contenders. All that was missing was a game that got Wrigleyville rocking.

“Probably one of our better wins of the year,” Bryant said.

That’s all without even mentioning the efforts of Lester, who was perfect until Adam Wainwright’s single in the top of the sixth. It was another stellar effort from a Cubs starting pitcher, and what was the team’s biggest problem during that sub-.500 first half — inconsistent starting pitching — certainly seems to be ironed out.

While the standings say it’s still going to be a brawl to the end with the Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs could be in a first-place tie by the end of Saturday night.

In other words, the race is on. And Bryant and the Cubs are clicking at the right time.

“It’s already Jaugust,” Maddon joked, inventing a new month out of thin air. “There’s no waiting around right now. Everybody feels the same way. We took advantage of the break, I believe. We came back with renewed energy. You don’t want to give up anything right now.”