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Matt Garza dominates in Cubs’ victory

Chicago Cubs' Matt Garzworks against OaklAthletics first inning baseball game Wednesday July 3 2013 OaklCalif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Chicago Cubs' Matt Garza works against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of a baseball game on Wednesday, July 3, 2013, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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Updated: July 4, 2013 1:38PM



OAKLAND – Matt Garza did everything he could Wednesday night in Oakland to make the Cubs’ 3-1 victory at Oakland Coliseum his final start in a Cubs uniform.

Another strong eight innings by the team’s best pitcher gave a dozen scouts watching him another powerful reason to consider him a difference maker for a playoff contender, if not the best available pitcher on the trading block in early July.

“That was as good as I’ve seen him in two years, especially against seven lefthanders in that lineup,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. ‘‘Had command of his fastball down and away and didn’t use too many curve balls. Had extra velocity when he needed it.”

How aggressive any of their teams get in pursuing him will determine whether Garza is traded before the All-Star break – if not before his next scheduled start, Monday against the White Sox.

The Cubs already have proven they’re open to dealing fast this July after getting left with a bucketful of Plan Bs – and worse – last year as they navigated no-trade clauses (Ryan Dempster) and injuries (Garza’s elbow) into final days before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

The Cubs were the first team to pull off a significant trade this year, dealing Scott Feldman to Baltimore on Tuesday for a pair of past-their-prospect-years power pitchers with upside – albeit, some of the urgency involving a desire to acquire cap space within their international-signing limits.

But there’s at least two sets of numbers that suggest Garza (4-1, 3.45) could draw a strong pursuit from a team with October plans and a need for starting pitching:

-- He’s 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in his last four starts – striking out 28 with eight walks in those 30 innings.

-- In nine starts since returning from a lat injury, he has proven his health and strength, consistently reaching mid- and upper-90s velocity. And at the halfway point in the season, he has 16 potential starts left to make this season.

“When you’re dealing with starting pitchers, [early deals] are going to happen a little more than other pieces,” Sveum said. “When you’re giving up prospects and things like that, you want those starting pitchers to pitch for you for more than the two months if you wait till the deadline. If you think you have a chance at the playoffs, you want them for more than eight starts or nine starts or whatever it might be.”

Milwaukee got 17 starts out of CC Sabathia when they traded on July 7 with Cleveland in 2008. Texas got 15 out of Cliff Lee when they traded July 9 to get him from Seattle in 2009.

The imminence of a trade is something that obviously has not had a negative impact on the performance of Garza, who allowed just four hits in eight innings Wednesday, including a two-out solo home run by Brandon Moss in the fourth.

“Until my phone rings, I’m a Cub, and I’m going to stay a Cub,” said Garza, a pending free agent, who was asked if he’d like another shot at pitching in October this year, regardless of the team.

“I just love pitching in October,” he said. “I’d love to take this team to October. It’d be one hell of a ride, I tell you that. October sounds like a lot of fun, but I’ve got to get past the next five days.’’

Closer Kevin Gregg, another top trade candidate, got the final three outs to earn his 14th save in 15 chances this season.

Sveum, whose bullpen has been a mess all season and who’s already facing a starter deficit with the Feldman trade, knows it’s not going to get any easier.

“I don’t brace for anything,” he said, “because I don’t have control over it until all these things happen. It’s part of the business, and that’s where we are at this part of the season right now.”

The Cubs scored in first on a run-scoring single by Alfonso Soriano with two out and added a one-out solo homer by Luis Valbuena for an early 2-0 lead.

They got a two-out insurance run in the eighth when Dioner Navarro and Brian Bogusevic delivered back-to-back doubles.



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