Matt Garza thrives at Wrigley
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org July 15, 2012 9:26PM
Arizona Diamondbacks v Chicago Cubs
Updated: August 17, 2012 7:10AM
Forgive Cubs manager Dale Sveum for wanting to see the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline pass without major headlines about his pitching staff.
No manager would want to see such a starting staff broken up.
‘‘You think about that a lot,’’ Sveum said Sunday soon after the latest masterful job by Matt Garza against the Arizona Diamondbacks. ‘‘You don’t dwell on it, but a streak like this, you don’t want to lose pieces of the rotation.’’
With another seven scoreless innings from Garza (5-7) in a 3-1 victory, Paul Maholm, Ryan Dempster and Garza held the Diamondbacks scoreless through 19 consecutive innings, starting with the second inning Friday.
In the last five games, the rotation — including Jeff Samardzija — has allowed only four runs in 32 innings for a 1.13 ERA.
Even the bullpen has sparkled, allowing two runs in its last 12 innings (1.50 ERA).
It has been part of a dramatic turnaround that has seen the Cubs go 12-4 in their last 16 games after completing a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field for the first time since May 2008.
Dempster, Garza and even Maholm are coveted on the trade market because the Cubs played themselves out of contention early.
‘‘We can’t control that,’’ Garza said, repeating what his teammates have said. ‘‘All we can control is between the lines and our preparation.
‘‘I have a wife who’s due in 23 days, so the rumor mill can wait. When she calls, I’ll be next to her no matter where I am.
‘‘I’ve said it before: I love it here. My kids love it here. I’m open to [staying], but it’s not my choice. You just get ready the next five days for the next start.’’
Unlike free agent-to-be Dempster, Garza won’t be eligible for free agency until after 2013. There had been talk of a contract extension, but nothing has materialized.
Garza continued to show how much he likes pitching at Wrigley, giving up only five hits while improving his home record to 3-1 with a 2.12 ERA in seven starts compared to 2-6 with a 5.67 ERA on the road.
‘‘Garza was awesome,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘His fastball was great even though he used his other stuff. It was his fastball command and using their aggressiveness against them on 3-2 counts.’’
Garza struck out seven and walked one, and while he had only three runs of support — the big blow a two-run homer by Darwin Barney off Trevor Cahill (7-8) in the second inning — it was enough.
He has allowed three runs or fewer in 18 consecutive home starts, dating to June 27, 2011. It’s the longest such streak by a Cubs pitcher since Kerry Wood did it for 22 consecutive home games from July 7, 2000, to April 20, 2002.
He has a 7-4 record with two complete games and a 1.97 ERA in his last 18 starts at Wrigley.
‘‘I don’t know what it is,’’ Garza said with a smile.
He does know things have felt good since June 25, when winning started to become a habit.
‘‘You don’t want to be that guy [who doesn’t perform well],’’ Garza said. ‘‘You keep pumping strikes.’’