Garza: No quit, Cubs will fight to the end

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Garza: No quit, Cubs will fight to the end

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Posted: 5:54 p.m. Updated: 7:01 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

There is only one way Matt Garza keeps score. He doesnt care about his personal record. He views it as a zero-sum game.

This is why Cubs general manager Jim Hendry spent weeks on the phone trying to pry Garza from the Tampa Bay Rays.

You could see it as the San Diego Padres froze at 94 mph fastballs, and flailed at 89 mph sliders darting toward the dirt. With the winds whipping around Wrigley Field, they looked helpless.

Garza deserved his first win in a Cubs uniform. He delivered six shutout innings on Wednesday afternoon, but this one wasnt decided until the 11th, when Reed Johnson smashed a 1-1 slider from Padres reliever Luke Gregerson.

The line drive landed in the left-field bleachers for a 2-1 walk-off victory in Game 1 of a doubleheader.

As long as at the end of the day we get that big W (on) our side, Garza said. Im here to get to October. Any way we can do it Im all for it. If I dont win a game all year, but we win my games, it doesnt bother me one bit.

The Cubs are expecting bigger and better things from Garza, a proven playoff performer who is under their control through 2013. But this was another step in the right direction.

It was 42 degrees at first pitch and Garza struck out five of the first seven batters he faced, and nine overall. He gave up six singles, three of which didnt leave the infield.

Garza who came into the game with a 6.27 ERA vowed that things were going to change. Not that the Cubs were overly concerned.

Hes pounded the strike zone, manager Mike Quade said. His idea of attacking hitters in this league and in this division is evolving, how he mixes his soft game with his fastball. (Hes) not off to a great start, but I think his history says that hes going to get better.

There was Garza standing alone on the mound. He took his hat off, rubbed his head and looked toward the sky. He took a long, deep breath.

The bases were loaded in the sixth because Garza had suddenly lost control and walked three batters. Just when it looked like things might unravel, he forced Brad Hawpe into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play and started to pump his fist.

But ultimately this game was out of Garzas hands. These are the margins the Cubs are working with: Garza himself scored their first run and they had been shut out in his previous two starts.

In the long run, just pitch good, Quade said, and you believe the support will come.

Carlos Marmol blew the save the only way he knows how: walk, stolen base, bunt, sacrifice fly. When the closer fails, he says the other team got lucky.

The Padres didnt need a hard-hit ball to tie it in the ninth. It gave new life to a team that had gone 18 consecutive innings without scoring a run against the Cubs.

But with the pitching staff already stretched thin, Jeff Samardzija stepped up to throw two scoreless innings. He walked three and gave up two hits but managed to escape a bases-loaded jam in the 11th to earn the win.

Thats fine with Garza, who has brought an edge and a sense of intensity to this team.

Theres a lot of fight in us, Garza said. We dont quit after nine. We play hard until they ring that final bell and get that final out. Q told us in spring: We need to be resilient. Its definitely showing that we are.

Were fighters. Were not going to roll over. Were going to be scrappy until the end.

Box Score

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

Breaking down how Cubs look at the Justin Verlander situation

Breaking down how Cubs look at the Justin Verlander situation

Theo Epstein’s embrace-debate management style means the Cubs are constantly running through different scenarios, trying to balance their win-now urges against what should be a very bright future in Wrigleyville.

The financials, the human intelligence and the analytics are all factored into the equation, which leads to this question for Epstein’s cabinet: Is there a point where the Detroit Tigers kick in enough money and the prospect cost becomes so low that Justin Verlander makes sense for the Cubs?

The Cubs haven’t definitively answered that question yet or completely ruled out the idea, a team source said Tuesday, cautioning that the defending World Series champs are still more likely to add a reliever before the July 31 trade deadline than acquire a frontline starting pitcher.

“Always looking to make the team better,” manager Joe Maddon said before a 7-2 win over the White Sox kept the Cubs in a virtual first-place tie with the Milwaukee Brewers. “Always. That’s what a GM and a president does. But I like our guys.”  

Verlander would obviously benefit from a move to the National League and feel energized in a pennant race. The Cubs could rationalize this as an immediate boost and a long-range solution while preparing for a 2018 rotation without Jake Arrieta and John Lackey.

Imagine the buzz from Kate Upton’s fiancée walking into the clubhouse and making his first start at Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform. Verlander and Upton have been spotted enough times at Chicago Cut Steakhouse that his no-trade power might be the easiest hurdle to clear in a deal of this magnitude.

Verlander’s overall numbers are ordinary this season (5-7, 4.50 ERA, 1.444 WHIP), but trending in the right direction. The Cubs would go into it knowing that they wouldn’t get the same guy who won 24 games and American League MVP and Cy Young awards in 2011.

The Tigers also can’t just give away a franchise icon who finished second in last year’s AL Cy Young voting and has a 3.39 ERA in 16 career playoff starts

The Cubs are trying to see around corners and anticipate what the team will look like in 2018 and 2019 – when Verlander will make $28 million guaranteed each season – and what might be available in trades and on the free-agent market during those transaction cycles. Verlander is also owed the balance of his $28 million salary this season and has a $22 million vesting option for 2020.

Even if the Tigers pay down some of that commitment, that’s still a ton of exposure with a guy who has roughly 2,500 innings on his odometer and will be 35 years old around the time pitchers and catchers report to spring training next season. That’s also when the Cubs will begin the second half of Jon Lester’s $155 million megadeal – for his age-34, -35 and -36 seasons.

After stunning the baseball world with that blockbuster White Sox trade during the All-Star break, Epstein talked about how Jose Quintana’s reasonable contract – $8.85 million next season plus team options for 2019 and 2020 worth $22 million combined – creates room for another star player.

As great as Verlander has been throughout his career, are the Cubs really ready to pour that money back into a player who was born in 1983? And meet Detroit’s asking price in terms of prospects?

And go against the buy-low philosophy that attracted the Cubs to Arrieta, as well as the ageism that makes them reluctant to reinvest in their own Cy Young Award winner? And potentially close off opportunities to sign free agents from the monster class coming after the 2018 season?

Probably not, but the Cubs haven’t shut down the Verlander discussion yet.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs even up Crosstown Series with White Sox

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs even up Crosstown Series with White Sox

Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Jordan Bernfield (ESPN) and Mark Potash (Chicago Sun-Times) join Kap to talk Game 2 of the Crosstown Series.

Later, the group previews Bears camp and what's going on with the Cavaliers.

Check out the SportsTalk Live Podcast below: