Matt Garza shines, Cubs hit three homers in win over Astros
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org June 21, 2013 7:34PM
Chicago Cubs starter Matt Garza delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros in Chicago, Friday, June 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Updated: July 23, 2013 6:19AM
Last year, Matt Garza was one of the most coveted trade commodities on the Cubs.
Despite 10 months on the sidelines with injuries, he quickly is becoming that all over again.
In his second consecutive dominating performance, Garza on Friday looked more like the elite power pitcher he was with the Tampa Bay Rays and in his first year with the Cubs in 2011.
And more and more like the kind of pitcher contending teams will covet in the coming weeks.
“The conviction and the fastball and the command and getting in on guys to get ground balls,’’ manager Dale Sveum said of the package Garza had — and seems to be getting back.
“His slider was pretty dominating with Tampa Bay, the kind that when it’s on is a wipeout type of pitch.”
“You don’t want to not have a guy who gives up basically one run in the last 16 innings. But obviously it’s a business, and that’s not part of my business.”
But with teams already making preliminary calls to the Cubs, it remains the elephant in the room when it comes to talking about Garza (2-1), especially after another masterful eight-inning, eight-strikeout performance in a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field.
“Ten months is a long time off, but it’s coming back,’’ Garza said. “I’m finding my way again. Its getting back to being more fluid and free and easy.’’
In his last start, Garza pitched scoreless ball for seven innings against the New York Mets, only to see a 3-0 lead slip away in reliever Carlos Marmol’s blown save.
On Friday, Garza was arguably better, allowing only four hits, one of them a solo home run by Chris Carter (15th).
“Let’s see, one run in 15 innings? I’d say I’m 95 percent back,’’ he said. “I won’t sell myself short.’’
Nor will suitors, who already are scouting and seeing what is becoming obvious.
“Remember, he didn’t have spring training,’’ said catcher Dioner Navarro, who was Garza’s teammate with the Rays. “He didn’t have what every other pitcher in the league has. He was trying to get into a groove.
“But the last couple starts, his fastball command has been off the charts. He’s finally getting in a groove. Everything else becomes much better after the fastball.’’
Garza puts off the trade banter, something he has gone through several times in his career.
But he is making his own case, this time making three runs stand up.
They came from three solo home runs — by Darwin Barney, who went 3-for-4 in the leadoff spot; by Anthony Rizzo (11th), who homered for the first time since May 18; and by Scott Hairston (sixth).
Garza even went out to start the ninth inning, with a pitch count in the low 90s giving him room to try for his first complete game since Sept. 21, 2011.
But he walked the first batter to open the door for waiting closer Kevin Gregg (11th save.)
“I wanted to finish, but that was on me,’’ Garza said of the walk. “We’ve got a guy who’s been doing very well [Gregg] so why not hand it over and watch.’’