Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Posted: 5:54 p.m. Updated: 7:01 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
There is only one way Matt Garza keeps score. He doesnt care about his personal record. He views it as a zero-sum game.
This is why Cubs general manager Jim Hendry spent weeks on the phone trying to pry Garza from the Tampa Bay Rays.
You could see it as the San Diego Padres froze at 94 mph fastballs, and flailed at 89 mph sliders darting toward the dirt. With the winds whipping around Wrigley Field, they looked helpless.
Garza deserved his first win in a Cubs uniform. He delivered six shutout innings on Wednesday afternoon, but this one wasnt decided until the 11th, when Reed Johnson smashed a 1-1 slider from Padres reliever Luke Gregerson.
The line drive landed in the left-field bleachers for a 2-1 walk-off victory in Game 1 of a doubleheader.
As long as at the end of the day we get that big W (on) our side, Garza said. Im here to get to October. Any way we can do it Im all for it. If I dont win a game all year, but we win my games, it doesnt bother me one bit.
The Cubs are expecting bigger and better things from Garza, a proven playoff performer who is under their control through 2013. But this was another step in the right direction.
It was 42 degrees at first pitch and Garza struck out five of the first seven batters he faced, and nine overall. He gave up six singles, three of which didnt leave the infield.
Garza who came into the game with a 6.27 ERA vowed that things were going to change. Not that the Cubs were overly concerned.
Hes pounded the strike zone, manager Mike Quade said. His idea of attacking hitters in this league and in this division is evolving, how he mixes his soft game with his fastball. (Hes) not off to a great start, but I think his history says that hes going to get better.
There was Garza standing alone on the mound. He took his hat off, rubbed his head and looked toward the sky. He took a long, deep breath.
The bases were loaded in the sixth because Garza had suddenly lost control and walked three batters. Just when it looked like things might unravel, he forced Brad Hawpe into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play and started to pump his fist.
But ultimately this game was out of Garzas hands. These are the margins the Cubs are working with: Garza himself scored their first run and they had been shut out in his previous two starts.
In the long run, just pitch good, Quade said, and you believe the support will come.
Carlos Marmol blew the save the only way he knows how: walk, stolen base, bunt, sacrifice fly. When the closer fails, he says the other team got lucky.
The Padres didnt need a hard-hit ball to tie it in the ninth. It gave new life to a team that had gone 18 consecutive innings without scoring a run against the Cubs.
But with the pitching staff already stretched thin, Jeff Samardzija stepped up to throw two scoreless innings. He walked three and gave up two hits but managed to escape a bases-loaded jam in the 11th to earn the win.
Thats fine with Garza, who has brought an edge and a sense of intensity to this team.
Theres a lot of fight in us, Garza said. We dont quit after nine. We play hard until they ring that final bell and get that final out. Q told us in spring: We need to be resilient. Its definitely showing that we are.
Were fighters. Were not going to roll over. Were going to be scrappy until the end.
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.