Cubs

'Inexcusable mistakes' doom Garza vs. Brewers

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'Inexcusable mistakes' doom Garza vs. Brewers

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: 8:54 p.m. Updated: 10:45 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MILWAUKEE Matt Garza is aggressive and does not fear pitching to contact. He talks fast, direct and to the point. Thats why he found this to be inexcusable.

As Garza stood in front of his locker afterward, he rattled off the at-bats in his head. He got Prince Fielder to an 0-2 count three times and watched the Brewers slugger crush three doubles and drive in four runs.

By Garzas count, six of Milwaukees eight hits came off breaking or offspeed pitches. That made Saturdays 6-0 loss really, his two starts in a Cubs uniform something of an identity crisis.

Im supposed to put (Fielder) away, and I didnt do that, Garza said. Thats uncalled for. Thats not my style. Thats not who I am and thats something thats going to change. I havent had bad outings. Its just (that) I dont give up 20 hits in two games.

Except Garza just did that.

The Cubs didnt trade for Garza because the Brewers got Zack Greinke. The front office didnt even spin it as a total win-now move, because Garza would be a foundation piece for years to come.

But whoever winds up making the better deal will be telling. It will probably say something about the state of the National League Central.

Greinke fractured his rib while playing pickup hoops this spring and on Saturday threw his second bullpen session, which could put him back in the rotation by early May and change the division race. The Cubs are already down two starting pitchers.

Hours later, Garza made his first career start against the Brewers. You figure he will be making many more at Miller Park, absorbing the noise with the roof closed and feeling the adrenaline along with all those Cubs fans that drove up I-94.

In front of a sellout crowd of 42,478, Garza stalked off the mound with two outs in the sixth inning, the bases loaded and the Cubs trailing 5-0. John Grabow struck out Nyjer Morgan to end the threat, but by then the damage had already been done.

We are, I believe, eight games into the season, Garza said. There are 154 more. I highly doubt any of us are pressing right now. Its not September. Its barely the second week of the season. Theres no pressure, theres no pressing.

Through Garzas first two starts combined, he has given up eight runs on 20 hits. Hes also struck out 20 and walked only three, one intentional. Yes, thats only 12.2 innings, a sample size thats totally insignificant when weighed against what Garza did in Tampa Bay.

The Cubs are learning more and more about Garza. While Greinke has dealt with social anxiety issues, Garza is on the top step of the dugout, showing his emotions.

Hes animated. Hes quite loud, but he knows what hes doing, catcher Geovany Soto said. Hes a little hyperactive, but its good energy.

This isnt all on Garza. Carlos Pena struck out twice and left five men on base in his first two at-bats. And Brewers lefty Chris Narveson shut out the Cubs for seven innings.

But given everything the Cubs (4-4) have gone through this week, as well as the difficult road trip that lies ahead, they could have used the type of performance that once made Garza an ALCS MVP.

Really, the Cubs arent just waiting on Garza. Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano havent pitched up to or beyond expectations either. And until they get rolling, the Cubs will be stuck in neutral.

I dont think you judge the group of pitchers that were counting on by two starts at the beginning of the season, thats for damn sure, manager Mike Quade said. They all have good history. Were not talking about three young kids that we cant count on. And guess what? If they dont pitch well, were going to struggle, and they know that.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Is Joe Maddon covering for Wade Davis? Where do Cubs go from here?

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USA TODAY

Is Joe Maddon covering for Wade Davis? Where do Cubs go from here?

Is Cubs manager Joe Maddon taking the heat and covering for Wade Davis while the All-Star closer deals with atypical soreness in his right arm?

“No, no,” Maddon said Tuesday when asked if Davis felt anything unusual that lingered into the National League Championship Series after last week’s all-out effort eliminated the Washington Nationals from the divisional round.

The Los Angeles Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven bullpen battle without Davis throwing a single pitch, the backlash from Cubs fans, Twitter and the national media again putting Maddon on the defensive, the year after he got second-guessed for pushing Aroldis Chapman so hard during the World Series.

This NLCS truly is a bizarro world, with Maddon comparing the Buster Posey Rule to the Chicago soda tax, getting so little benefit of the doubt – the Cubs really did beat the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 – and working the baseball term “dry-hump” into one answer during Monday’s Wrigley Field press conference.

Maddon said he would have to check first with Davis – who would have almost five full days in between relief appearances – if the Cubs need a four- or five-out save in Game 3.

“Nevertheless, I always check,” Maddon said. “I can’t just assume that.”

Maddon’s Game 2 calculus on Sunday night at Dodger Stadium – sticking with lefty reliever Brian Duensing in a 1-1 game to start the ninth inning and then bringing in John Lackey to serve up the walk-off, three-run homer to Justin Turner – made you wonder if Davis was still dragging after ending Washington’s season and traveling on the overnight cross-country flight that got diverted to New Mexico for about five hours when Jose Quintana’s wife experienced a panic attack.

“I think he just got mentally exhausted,” Maddon said. “Physically, 44 pitches, he hasn’t done that in a while. But also the seven outs and what it meant and the plane ride itself, sitting on the tarmac, there was a lot of non-rest going on right there, so it was harder to recover.

“So, no, he was fine for the last game, but we set up the parameters before the game.”

Maddon is sticking with his story, that he would only deploy Davis in a save situation and not use him for one out against Turner (1.115 career postseason OPS) or have him totally warm up without the guarantee of getting him into the game.

“To put Wade in that position would be wrong on my part,” Maddon said. “We had already talked about the circumstances, so my loyalty there lies with Wade, or my decision-making lies with Wade, nobody else.

“That was a heavy day for him (in Washington). Going into the last game in L.A., like I talked about, we talked about one inning only, and not to get up and not put him in the game.

“If you get him up and sit him down, then you have no idea what it’s going to look like. My responsibility is to him, also, and to the players, so I told him that before the game, so I had to stick with our decision.”

Before finalizing the Jorge Soler trade at the winter meetings, the Kansas City Royals took the unusual step of allowing the Cubs to meet with Davis at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley and go through a physical exam. The Cubs wanted reassurances after Davis spent parts of last season on the disabled list with a forearm strain and a flexor strain.

The Cubs wondered if “dry-humping” had contributed to those injuries, and tried to stay conservative with Davis during his free-agent year, watching him convert his first 32 save chances and using him for three-plus outs only three times during the regular season, all in mid-to-late September.

“If you look at the numbers this year, I thought going into the playoffs his usage has been really good,” Maddon said. “Minimal, in a sense. We didn’t get him up hardly at all where we didn’t utilize him.

“He just wasn’t set up for it the other day. So honestly, I think he’s in really good shape right now, actually. I don’t think he could have gone those seven outs the other day if he had been overly dried up during the course of the season. He felt good. But that was above and beyond, and that wasn’t part of the game plan the other night.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Ben Zobrist shares his leadoff approach

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Ben Zobrist shares his leadoff approach

Sports Talk Live is on location at the Brickhouse Tavern at Wrigley Field to get you set for Game 3 of the NLCS. David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Jesse Rogers (ESPNChicago.com) and Bob Nightengale (USA Today) join Kap on the panel. 

Plus, Ben Zobrist and Curtis Granderson drop by to talk about the big matchup.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: