Matt Garza didn’t notice the standing ovation he received as he walked off the Wrigley Field mound.
The Cubs’ fans were showing their appreciation for Garza, the center of swirling trade rumors for the second consecutive season who had turned in another in a recent string of quality starts.
Instead of soaking in the adulation, Garza slammed his glove against his leg before ducking into the dugout. Despite giving up only two runs in the Cubs’ 6-4 victory Saturday over the St. Louis Cardinals, Garza was frustrated he couldn’t finish the seventh inning.
“That’s awesome, but 6 ⅔ innings doesn’t deserve that. Seven, eight, nine does,” Garza said of the crowd’s reaction. “I appreciate it, but I hope this isn’t my last one.”
The majority of a season-high crowd of 42,240 also hope it wasn’t his last one, especially with the way he’s been pitching. Garza (6-1) pitched in and out of trouble in almost every inning but still earned his fifth consecutive victory, tying his career best.
Alfonso Soriano and Luis Valbuena each hit home runs as the Cubs knocked Cardinals’ starter Lance Lynn out in the fifth inning. Cubs closer Kevin Gregg allowed a hit and run in the ninth but still earned his 17th save.
Garza allowed two runs on 10 hits with two walks (one intentional) and four strikeouts in his 113-pitch effort. He is now 5-0 with a 1.47 ERA and 33 strikeouts in his past five starts, making him one of the Cubs’ most attractive trading assets.
It’s a situation he knows well.
“You do get caught up in it, but I’ve been through it so much that I’m just oblivious to it until something happens,” Garza said. “It’s stressful, but at the same time I have a great outlet. I get to pitch every five days, so I just keep going and keep looking forward to that next five days.”
The Cubs built a 6-1 lead against Lynn (11-4), who entered with a 3.67 ERA. Soriano sparked a three-run second inning with a lead-off double and his lead-off home run in the third made it 4-1.
It was Soriano’s 16th homer of the year and 180th as a Cub, passing Derrek Lee for 11th on the club’s all-time list. Soriano is hitting .350 with five doubles, nine home runs and 19 RBI in his past 15 games.
Valbuena completed the Cubs’ scoring with his two-run shot into the right-field basket, snapping an 0-for-13 stretch. It was his first home run at Wrigley since May 30.
The Cardinals chipped away at Garza in the seventh, eventually getting him out of the game but failing to do much damage regardless. With two on and one out, Garza struck out slugger Carlos Beltran.
“I think that was the biggest at-bat of the game,” Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro said. “Matt settled down there and struck him out with a fastball away. It was big for us.”
But an RBI single from Allen Craig followed, ending Garza’s night.
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“He’s one of the more competitive, prepared, hard-working starting pitchers you’re going to see out there,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “Obviously he was mad at himself for hanging the slider and knowing he was at the end of his rope there, and not getting through that inning by himself.”
After Sunday’s series finale with the Cardinals, the Cubs don’t play again at Wrigley until July 30. They come out of next week’s All-Star Break with a 10-game road trip that begins against the Colorado Rockies Friday.
That leaves many believing Saturday’s game may be his final one at Wrigley as a Cubs pitcher.
While nobody knows for sure what the future hold, Garza sounded pretty certain about some things at least.
“I know exactly what’s going to happen,” Garza said. “I’m going to come in (Sunday) and get my day one workout and then I’m going to enjoy my All-Star break and see if I catch that flight on Thursday or Friday to Denver.”