Cubs

Garza: No quit, Cubs will fight to the end

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Garza: No quit, Cubs will fight to the end

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Posted: 5:54 p.m. Updated: 7:01 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

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.

Box Score

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Feeding off their defense, Cubs starting to feel those 2016 vibes

Feeding off their defense, Cubs starting to feel those 2016 vibes

A year ago, the Cubs were struggling to float above .500, sitting 1.5 games behind the first-place Brewers.

Two years ago, the Cubs were10.5 games up on the second-place Cardinals in the division and already in cruise control to the postseason.

As they entered a weekend series in Cincinnati at 42-29 and in a tie for first place, the Cubs are feeling quite a bit more like 2016 than 2017.

The major reason? Energy, as Joe Maddon pointed out over the weekend.

That energy shows up most often on defense.

The 2016 Cubs put up maybe the best defensive season in baseball history while last year they truly looked hungover.

After a big of a slow start to 2018, the Cubs are feelin' more of that '16 swag.

If you watched either of the wins against the Los Angeles Dodgers this week at Wrigley Field, it's clear to see why: the defense.

"I like the defense," Maddon said of his team last week. "I'm into the defense. There's a tightness about the group. There's a closeness about the group. Not saying last year wasn't like that, but this group is definitely trending more in the '16 direction regarding interacting.

"If anything — and the one thing that makes me extremely pleased — would be the continuation of the defense. We've fed so much off our defense in '16. We've been doing that more recently again. We do so much good out there, then we come in and it gets kinda electric in the dugout. I'd like to see that trend continue on defense."

The Cubs scored only 2 runs in 10 innings in the second game against the Dodgers Tuesday night and managed just 4 runs in the finale Wednesday. Yet their gloves helped hold the Dodgers to only 1 run combined between the two games.

Wednesday's game was a defensive clinic, with Jason Heyward throwing out Chris Taylor at home plate with an incredible tag by Willson Contreras while Javy Baez, Albert Almora Jr., Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber all hit the ground to make sprawling/diving plays.

"[Almora] comes in and dives for one and I'm just like, 'OK, I'm done clapping for you guys,'" Jon Lester, Wednesday's winning pitcher, joked. "It's expected now that these guys make these plays. It's fun on our end. It's the, 'Here, hit it. Our guys are really good out there and they're gonna run it down.'"

The Heyward throw, in particular, jacked the team up. 

Maddon compared it to a grand slam with how much energy it provided the Cubs. Almora said he momentarily lost his voice because he was screaming so much at the play.

There was also Baez making plays in the hole at shortstop, then switching over to second base and turning a ridiculous unassisted double play on a liner in the 8th inning.

"That's what we're capable of doing," Maddon said. "In the past, when we've won on a high level, we've played outstanding defense. It never gets old to watch that kind of baseball."

The Cubs are back to forcing opposing hitters to jog off the field, shaking their head in frustration and disbelief.

"It could be so dispiriting to the other side when you make plays like that," Maddon said. "And also it's buoyant to your pitchers. So there's all kinds of good stuff goin' on there."

A lot of that is the play of the outfield, with Almora back to himself after a down 2017 season and Schwarber turning into a plus-rated defensive outfield.

After finishing 19th in baseball in outfield assists last season, the Cubs are currently tied for 6th with 14 outfield assists this year.

Schwarber has 7 alone, which is already as many as he tallied in the entire 2017 season.

"I feel like they'll learn quickly on Schwarber, if they haven't yet," Heyward said. "You gotta earn that respect. You gotta earn that sense of caution from the third base coach.

"But please keep running on me in those situations. I want it to happen."

Brandon Morrow has a healthy sense of humor about his pants-related injury

Brandon Morrow has a healthy sense of humor about his pants-related injury

Brandon Morrow's body may not be healthy, but his sense of humor sure isn't on the disabled list.

The Cubs closer had to go on the DL Wednesday after he injured his back changing out of his pants early Monday morning when the Cubs returned home to Chicago after a Sunday night game in St. Louis.

The story made national rounds, not only in the baseball world, but resonating with non-sports fans, as well. After all, it's not every day a guy who gets paid millions for his athletic endeavors injures himself on a mundane every day activity.

But it's all good, because even Morrow can find the humor in the situation, Tweeting this out Thursday afternoon:

Morrow's back tightened up on him and didn't loosen up enough the next two days, making him unavailable for the Cubs doubleheader Tuesday at Wrigley Field.

The team decided to put him on the shelf Wednesday morning so an already-gassed bullpen wouldn't have more pressure during this stretch of 14 games in 13 days.

The Cubs are in Cincinnati this weekend for a four-game series with the Reds. Morrow is eligible to return from the DL next Wednesday in Los Angeles as the Cubs once again take on the Dodgers — Morrow's old team.

The 33-year-old pitcher is 16-for-17 in save chances this year while posting a 1.59 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 25 strikeouts in 22.2 innings. He's only given up a run in 2 of his 26 outings as a Cub.