Texas Rangers starting pitcher Matt Garza throws to the New York Yankees during the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, July 24, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
ARLINGTON, Texas — Matt Garza wants to make the Texas Rangers proud that they long coveted having him in their rotation.
The big right-hander made quite an impression when he finally pitched in a Texas uniform.
“Same thing I’ve always saw when he pitched against us,” manager Ron Washington said. “The guy can execute pitches. He never gets rattled.”
Garza pitched into the eighth inning of his Rangers debut, two days after getting traded from the Chicago Cubs. The only run he allowed was unearned after his throwing error in a 3-1 victory over the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.
“I’m excited. I couldn’t be more happy being in a place where I’m at, a place where I’m wanted, been wanted. It’s awesome,” Garza said. “I felt good. I just wanted to throw strikes.”
Garza (1-0) was 6-1 in his 11 starts this season for the Cubs. He was 5-0 with a 1.24 ERA his last six starts for Chicago, winning the last five.
After giving up consecutive singles to start his first game in a Rangers jersey, Garza retired 15 of the next 16 batters before his throwing error on Brett Gardner’s comebacker leading off the sixth. He finished with five strikeouts and no walks, throwing 66 of 95 pitches for strikes.
“Pounded the zone with vengeance,” Washington said.
“He was as advertised,” said David Murphy, who homered for Texas. “We’ve seen him do it before. It was impressive to see him attack the zone like that.”
A.J. Pierzynski drove in two runs for Texas, including a tiebreaking solo homer in the bottom of the sixth off Andy Pettitte (7-8).
The Rangers were interested in Garza when Tampa Bay traded him to Chicago after the 2010 season. They also inquired about him last summer before he missed the last two months with a stress reaction in his right elbow. He missed the first seven weeks this season because of a strained left lat muscle.
“He’s got good stuff. He has a very good fastball and slider. We hit some balls hard, but right at them,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He gave up hits to the first two batters and got out of the inning, and he kind of got on a roll after that.”
Gardner’s comebacker leading off the sixth rolled away from Garza even though the pitcher was able to get a glove on it. He scrambled to grab the ball, but threw awkwardly off his knee well wide of first base. The speedy Gardner was credited with an infield single and got to third on the errant throw.
Garza then snagged Ichiro Suzuki’s comebacker for an out before Robinson Cano lined a single over second baseman Ian Kinsler’s head to tie the game at 1.
Walking off the mound after the inning, Garza was clearly frustrated at himself. He already felt better soon after that, pumping his arms in the air and slapping his hands together when Pierzynski hit his 10th homer.
“It’s just I kept turning. I didn’t stop myself from sliding, that’s why I didn’t let the ball go too well. ... Caught me off guard, it’s one of those things ‘‘ Garza said. “But I made sure I got the next guy out and so close to not letting them score. That’s what I was a little (mad) about.”
Neal Cotts retired all four batters he faced before Joe Nathan got the final out for his 32nd save in 34 chances. The All-Star closer rebounded from the previous night when he gave up two runs in the ninth of a 5-4 loss to the Yankees.
Pettitte allowed eight eights and two runs while pitching into the seventh. The 41-year-old left-hander struck out two and walked one.
“Pierzynski killed him. He usually handles lefties well. He left a slider down but kind of in the middle of the plate, and he hit it out,” Girardi said. “We just need to get (Pettitte) some runs.”
The Rangers quickly led 1-0 after Ian Kinsler had a leadoff single, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Elvis Andrus and scored on a single by Pierzynski. It was the second time in three games this series they scored a run in the first inning, after 10 consecutive games without a run in the initial frame.
NOTES: Even with the victory for the Rangers, it was the 27th day in a row they failed to gain ground in the AL West since Oakland won 4-3 at Houston earlier Wednesday. The Rangers have gone from a half-game lead to three games back in that span. ... Rangers opening day starter Matt Harrison threw live BP, facing hitters for the first time since April. The lefty has been on the DL and had two back surgeries since his last start April 6. Harrison says he felt good and is expected to throw BP again Saturday in Cleveland. ... Yankees OF Curtis Granderson (broken pinkie) said he will start a minor league rehab assignment Thursday night with Class A Tampa and will evaluated at the end of the weekend.