Matt Garza not himself as Cubs fall to Astros
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com May 21, 2012 10:56PM
The Cubs’ Tony Campana steals second base ahead of the tag by the Astros’ Jose Altuve in the first inning Monday. He stole third moments later. | AP
Updated: July 2, 2012 9:03AM
HOUSTON — First the Cubs get swept by the White Sox. Now they can’t find Matt Garza.
“That was not Matt Garza pitching,’’ manager Dale Sveum said after the Cubs’ best pitcher had one of his worst outings with the team in an 8-4 loss Monday to the Houston Astros. “I don’t know. It was strange. So many offspeed pitches and breaking balls.’’
Trying hard to stop the Cubs’ weeklong skid — maybe too hard, he said — Garza struggled with his power pitches and gave up three-run homers to Jason Castro and Chris Johnson in consecutive innings.
He lasted only three innings, his second-shortest outing in 39 starts as a Cub, and gave up seven runs, his most with the team.
“That was more trying too hard, trying to stop crap that had been going on,’’ Garza said. “If you try too hard, you’re not going to stop it. You’re just going to continue it, and that’s exactly what happened.
“I’m just going to get ready for Pittsburgh and get right back at it and come out pissed off and with a vengeance. I don’t like it at all. I know my teammates don’t like it at all. This is not what I work for.”
Randy Wells, on the other hand, finished the game with five strong innings.
“He nutted up and picked me up for five innings,” Garza said. “He did what I couldn’t, and that’s give the bullpen a rest.’’
Meanwhile, the Cubs failed to score against the opponent’s starter for the fourth consecutive game.
Sveum keeps status quo
That shakeup Sveum had in store for the top of the Cubs’ lineup Monday?
The Cubs’ manager had the usual suspects in their usual spots in his underperforming lineup against right-hander Bud Norris for the opener of a three-game series against the Astros.
He said he came ‘‘very close’’ to a shakeup but decided to give it another week as the Cubs face an Astros team that will start two lefties the next two days, followed by the National League’s worst-hitting, lowest-scoring team, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
‘‘The bottom line is we’re still not scoring runs; we’re not scoring runs off the starting pitchers,’’ said Sveum, whose lineup let Norris off the hook in each of the first three innings with men in scoring position. ‘‘It’s been going on all year.
‘‘It’s kind of weird. We’re better [against] the back end of the bullpen than we have been [against] starting pitchers. So it’s just more of dwelling over that fact. What possibly can we do to just change up at the top? Not because anybody’s not doing their jobs.’’
David DeJesus, Tony Campana, Starlin Castro and cleanup man Bryan LaHair, in fact, are the Cubs’ most productive regulars.
‘‘It’s just a matter of somehow getting a lineup change that keeps the line moving a little longer,’’ Sveum said.
Catcher Welington Castillo’s sprained knee is improved but probably not enough to keep him off the disabled list when a roster move needs to be made to active Wood. ‘‘He’s a lot better, but he’s got to go squat, got to block the ball,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘A lot of things have to happen [before he can play].’’
◆ Reliever Blake Parker (mild hamstring strain) isn’t expected to be ready to pitch until at least Wednesday.