Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: 8:54 p.m. Updated: 10:45 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
MILWAUKEE Matt Garza is aggressive and does not fear pitching to contact. He talks fast, direct and to the point. Thats why he found this to be inexcusable.
As Garza stood in front of his locker afterward, he rattled off the at-bats in his head. He got Prince Fielder to an 0-2 count three times and watched the Brewers slugger crush three doubles and drive in four runs.
By Garzas count, six of Milwaukees eight hits came off breaking or offspeed pitches. That made Saturdays 6-0 loss really, his two starts in a Cubs uniform something of an identity crisis.
Im supposed to put (Fielder) away, and I didnt do that, Garza said. Thats uncalled for. Thats not my style. Thats not who I am and thats something thats going to change. I havent had bad outings. Its just (that) I dont give up 20 hits in two games.
Except Garza just did that.
The Cubs didnt trade for Garza because the Brewers got Zack Greinke. The front office didnt even spin it as a total win-now move, because Garza would be a foundation piece for years to come.
But whoever winds up making the better deal will be telling. It will probably say something about the state of the National League Central.
Greinke fractured his rib while playing pickup hoops this spring and on Saturday threw his second bullpen session, which could put him back in the rotation by early May and change the division race. The Cubs are already down two starting pitchers.
Hours later, Garza made his first career start against the Brewers. You figure he will be making many more at Miller Park, absorbing the noise with the roof closed and feeling the adrenaline along with all those Cubs fans that drove up I-94.
In front of a sellout crowd of 42,478, Garza stalked off the mound with two outs in the sixth inning, the bases loaded and the Cubs trailing 5-0. John Grabow struck out Nyjer Morgan to end the threat, but by then the damage had already been done.
We are, I believe, eight games into the season, Garza said. There are 154 more. I highly doubt any of us are pressing right now. Its not September. Its barely the second week of the season. Theres no pressure, theres no pressing.
Through Garzas first two starts combined, he has given up eight runs on 20 hits. Hes also struck out 20 and walked only three, one intentional. Yes, thats only 12.2 innings, a sample size thats totally insignificant when weighed against what Garza did in Tampa Bay.
The Cubs are learning more and more about Garza. While Greinke has dealt with social anxiety issues, Garza is on the top step of the dugout, showing his emotions.
Hes animated. Hes quite loud, but he knows what hes doing, catcher Geovany Soto said. Hes a little hyperactive, but its good energy.
This isnt all on Garza. Carlos Pena struck out twice and left five men on base in his first two at-bats. And Brewers lefty Chris Narveson shut out the Cubs for seven innings.
But given everything the Cubs (4-4) have gone through this week, as well as the difficult road trip that lies ahead, they could have used the type of performance that once made Garza an ALCS MVP.
Really, the Cubs arent just waiting on Garza. Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano havent pitched up to or beyond expectations either. And until they get rolling, the Cubs will be stuck in neutral.
I dont think you judge the group of pitchers that were counting on by two starts at the beginning of the season, thats for damn sure, manager Mike Quade said. They all have good history. Were not talking about three young kids that we cant count on. And guess what? If they dont pitch well, were going to struggle, and they know that.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.