OAKLAND, Calif. – “The Matt Garza Show” only has a few episodes left.
You will still be able to catch it somewhere else this summer, maybe even on national television in October. But his days in a Cubs uniform are numbered.
Garza’s stock can’t soar much higher after beating the Oakland A’s and former Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon on Wednesday night at O.co Coliseum. This 3-1 victory in front of a sellout crowd (35,067) again showed why he needs a bigger stage.
“That was as good as I’ve seen him in two years,” manager Dale Sveum said. “That’s as impressive as you’re going to get.”
Unless the Philadelphia Phillies make Cliff Lee available and decide to go into full sell mode, Garza should be the No. 1 starter on the market. The Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants were said to be among several teams with representatives at O.co Coliseum on Wednesday night.
“I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: For six, seven years, my name’s been thrown around there,” Garza said. “So until my phone rings, I’m going to be a Cub. We’ll see.”
[Box score: Cubs 3, A's 1]
The day Garza pitches is the closest thing this team has to an event, and his postgame press conference are always must-see. Remember his declaration last year when the trade rumors started heating up again: “I’ll pitch on the freaking moon.”
Across his last four starts, Garza has given up three runs in 30 innings, with 28 strikeouts against eight walks.
“Just got to keep it up,” Garza said. “My job right now is to try to get my team to October and we’re scratching and clawing our way back in one of the toughest divisions right now. We’re just gonna keep playing and keep going and see where it ends up.”
Would you like another shot at October this year, wherever that may be?
“I just love pitching in October and I’d love to take this team to October,” Garza said. “It would be one hell of a ride, I’ll tell you that. So right now, October sounds like a lot of fun, but I got to get past the next five days.”
The Cubs (36-46) are looking at the next five years. The day before, they began their summer sell-off by trading Scott Feldman to the Baltimore Orioles, four weeks before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
“If you’re asking why so early,” Sveum said, “you want those starting pitchers to pitch for you more than the two months when you wait until the deadline.
“When you think you have a chance at the playoffs and all that, you just want them for more than eight starts or nine starts, whatever it might be. You don’t want to give up prospects for (that).”
[More: Feldman responds to Samardzija comments]
Garza will be a free agent at season’s end, and there will be medical concerns about a rental player after elbow injuries forced him onto the disabled list at different points in 2011 and 2012. But team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer know this will be a seller’s market.
“The fact that you’ve got some tight races in the American League East and the National League West will lend itself to deals,” Hoyer said. “You’ve also got divisions – the NL Central in particular and also the AL West – where the difference between winning your division and not winning your division is the difference between having a five-game playoff series and a one-game playoff.”
The Arizona Diamondbacks (43-41) are in first, but only four games ahead of the last-place, defending-champion Giants. The battle between the A’s and Rangers could again go down to the last day of the regular season.
“There will be some jockeying, even with those teams that feel like they have a really strong chance of going to the playoffs,” Hoyer said. “If you have the chance to win the division with this new system, you’ve got to be aggressive to do that. The fact that races are jumbled up always probably favors the sellers.”
Garza showed a finishing kick, putting two runners on in the sixth inning before blowing away Brandon Moss with three straight 93 mph fastballs and getting a flyball to end the threat. With a runner on third and two outs in the eighth, Garza pointed to the sky and punched his glove as Yoenis Cespedes popped out to second.
[More: Looking ahead to trade deadline, Cubs continue roster makeover]
Garza, who once pitched close to home at Fresno State University, is a huge Raiders fan and comes to a few games here every year. He blew a kiss into the stands before the game started and dominated the A’s (49-36) in front of his family.
Pretty soon, Garza will become the hired gun for a pennant race. He won’t have to hear about “The Core” or “The Foundation for Sustained Success.” It will be all about three simple words from the late Al Davis, the maverick owner of the Silver and Black: “Just win, baby!”