With trade deadline approaching, Garza hitting his stride

With trade deadline approaching, Garza hitting his stride

June 21, 2013, 7:30 pm
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Tony Andracki

Matt Garza's approach is simple: He looks five days ahead and that's it.

There's no worrying about the trade rumors that have followed him around almost his entire career. He's not focusing on next month or next season, just on his next start.

After a three-hour, 18-minute rain delay, Garza was masterful on Friday, shutting down the Astros in a 3-1 Cubs victory in front of 33,119 at Wrigley Field.

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As trade rumors swirl surrounding the 29-year-old lightning rod, Cubs manager Dale Sveum is just happy to hand Garza the ball every fifth day.

"You don't want to lose a guy that could give up one run in his last 15 innings," Sveum said. "But obviously, it's a business and that's not my job."

After missing nearly 10 months to a stress reaction in his pitching elbow and then a lat strain suffered in spring training, Garza went out and stiffled the Astros, allowing one run on four hits and two walks in eight innings.

With an efficient 91 pitches through eight innings, Sveum trotted Garza out to start the ninth, but he promptly walked Astros leadoff batter Jose Altuve and was pulled for closer Kevin Gregg, who picked up his 11th save in 11 chances.

"I'm a little sad I didn't finish it, but that's on me," Garza said. "I walked the leadoff guy in the ninth. No reason to leave me in there. We got a guy who's closing games really well, so I'll just hand it over and watch."

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Friday marked Garza's seventh start of the 2013 campaign. He shut out the Pirates through five innings in his season debut May 21, but then allowed 19 runs across the next 22 1/3 innings, capped off by a nine-run game at the hands of the Reds June 11.

Since that start, Garza has allowed just one run in 15 innings and had a 13-inning scoreless streak snapped when Astros left fielder Chris Carter drove a Garza offering just to the right of the batter's eye in center field.

"Ten months off is a long time," Garza said. "No excuses for the first five [starts], but I'm just finding my way again, getting back to being more fluid and free and easy and not forcing a lot of stuff."

The Cubs see catcher Welington Castillo as a building block, but Garza has voiced a desire to throw to backup Dioner Navarro instead of the young backstop.

Garza got his wish Friday, as Navarro drew the start in the afternoon affair after the Cubs closed out a four-game set in St. Louis Thursday night, in which Castillo caught every game.

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Navarro and Garza were teammates in Tampa Bay and when he was asked if the two have a special chemistry, the veteran catcher joked, "he better listen to me."

"I got nothing to do with it," Navarro said. "We go through our gameplan. We sit before the game and we talk about what we want to do and what we like to do and we go out and execute.

"He's the one pitching, he's the one throwing the ball. I'm just behind there, doing my best to get him as deep in the game as I can.

"He's finally getting into a groove. He's commanding his fastball and everything else is becoming much better as a result."

Garza dialed it up to 95 mph at times Friday afternoon and when asked if he feels 100 percent healthy after back-to-back stellar outings, he didn't balk.

"I just threw eight innings with one run, so I feel about 95 percent," he quipped. "I'm not going to sell myself short. Everything felt good today. Just going to keep going to my next start.

"Everything's coming back. Slowly but surely. Everybody would've liked it a lot faster, but as long as it comes back, I'm not too worried about it."