Cubs win 5th in row behind Matt Garza, Scott Hairston
BY TONI GINNETTI email@example.com May 31, 2013 9:30PM
Updated: July 2, 2013 8:09AM
Matt Garza hadn’t won a game since last July 15, but when he notched his first one of the season Friday, the Cubs right-hander talked as much about his teammates.
‘‘We’re playing great right now,’’ he said after the 7-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cubs’ fifth straight. ‘‘Guys are growing and you see it right before your eyes, and it’s fun to watch.’’
The team could grow exponentially with the return of Garza if this performance is a sign.
His seven innings against the National League West leaders were as powerful as the fastball he rediscovered after letting it get away from him by throwing too many breaking balls in his last outing against the Cincinnati Reds, manager Dale Sveum said.
‘‘He had a good fastball and got ahead early — that was the mentality,’’ Sveum said.
Garza (1-0) ignored the healthy wind blowing out and stuck to his game plan.
‘‘My game plan the last couple starts had gotten away from who I was, and I went back to what got me here — and I liked it,’’ he said.
So did his teammates, who backed him with another powerful day at the plate and defensively.
‘‘It was a great team effort through and through,’’ said Scott Hairston, the platoon outfielder who took his turn as hitting hero with a grand slam in the fourth inning off Wade Miley (3-5). It was Hairston’s third career slam, the second in as many days for the Cubs and one of three Cubs homers in the game.
The offense coming to life this week has played no small part in the win streak after a season-worst six-game losing streak. But defense was what Sveum talked about before the game and what Garza talked about after it.
‘‘Guys were making plays all over the place,’’ Garza said, picking Hairston’s first-inning catch at the wall of Paul Goldschmidt’s would-be homer before any mention of Hairston’s grand slam. ‘‘Scotty going into the ivy, [David] DeJesus’ play in shallow center [in the third] and [second baseman Darwin] Barney with that amazing play on [Jason] Kubel,’’ a tumbling catch in short right field in the seventh.
‘‘As a pitcher, you want to get them involved. You don’t want 27 strikeouts.’’
Garza already showed he had the stuff for that before a stress reaction in his right arm and then a strained latissimus dorsi that kept him out of the game for 10 months.
In his third start since returning, he was as happy about going seven innings as he was about the victory. He limited the D-backs to six hits, three of them coming in the sixth, when they scored their two runs.
‘‘I was just going to go out and pound the zone early,’’ he said. ‘‘I was more pumped about going deep. High pitch counts early are not who I am.’’
He’s now part of a surprising starting pitching staff that seems ready to force the toughest of decisions on management this summer.
After a dismal April (10-16), the Cubs went 13-14 in May.
What has changed is a reviving offense, a steadier bullpen and an improving defense.
‘‘There were some very poor things going on early in the season, but after the first two weeks, getting Barney back [from the disabled list] every single day obviously is going to shore up your defense,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘But everything else has been clicking a lot better.’’
That includes the bullpen, which added two more scoreless innings Friday, lowering its ERA in the last nine games to 1.08 (three earned runs over 25 innings).