Cubs

Garza: Cubs will get up after being kicked in the teeth

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Garza: Cubs will get up after being kicked in the teeth

Matt Garza kept his glove over his mouth for nearly the entire walk from the mound to the dugout. You didnt have to read his lips to guess what he was thinking on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.

In Garzas mind, he should pitch nine innings every time out. But a tie game was out of his hands now, and the Philadelphia Phillies would hammer away at the Cubs bullpen.

There is the image that Garza and the television cameras have cultivated. It could be talking to himself, or hanging over the dugout rail and yelling out onto the field. There are the sunglasses, the headphones and the hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head.

But for someone who seems ideally suited for a win-now contender, Garza sees the big picture. In his own colorful way, Garza speaks the same language as Cubs president Theo Epstein, preaching patience and player development.

Just listen to Garza after a 9-2 loss to the Phillies, when hes asked what a mostly young, inexperienced bullpen might learn after giving up seven runs in 2.1 innings.

Theres no easier way to pop up than after somebody kicks you in the teeth, Garza said. Youre pissed off and youre going to get back up and make sure it doesnt happen again. Thats the kind of guys we got, guys that arent going to quit, arent going to hide (or) put their tail between their legs and run away.

Theyre going to come back here tomorrow and work their butts off and make sure that crap doesnt happen again.

Thats what we need here. Every time Skip comes and takes the ball from me, I have no second thoughts, no regrets, no doubts. I trust these guys every time out. I hate when he grabs the ball from me, but at least I can trust the guys Im handing the ball to.

As much as Garza was being a good teammate, he knew he ran his pitch count high (107) into the seventh inning, and that manager Dale Sveum plays matchups.

With two outs, the Cubs had seen enough of Juan Pierre, who had bunted twice and the throws to first base seemed to have gotten into Garzas head.

Garza laughed it all off one was officially an error, the other was not saying that he slipped, he heard catcher Geovany Soto yelling Dont throw! and Pierre just got out of the box too fast.

Garzas review of flicking his wrist and throwing the ball into the ground: That was freaking hilarious.

Sveum was asked if this had become a mental thing: Im not a psychologist.

Garza who gave up two runs in 6.2 innings hasnt gone crazy while getting minimal run support and missing out on wins.

Shawn Camp who might be the reliever trusted most by Sveum allowed Carlos Ruiz to hit the go-ahead homer in the eighth inning. Michael Bowden who tried to get Scott Maine out of a jam gave up a grand slam to Hector Luna in the ninth.

(Bowden it's) his first time in the NL, so hes not familiar with any of the hitters, Garza said. Especially when its a guy that I didnt even know they had. I feel Im one of the most prepared guys and I had no clue they had Hector Luna on their roster. So its one of those things like Whoa. Just step back and take the positive things out of today and get back at it tomorrow and try to even this thing out.

The Cubs (15-22) are alone in last place in the National League Central, but that doesnt mean Garza wont fit into their plans.

Garza, 28, came up through the widely-respected player-development system built by the Minnesota Twins. He went to the 2008 World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays. He watched the Cubs crash last season and doesnt want to see it happen again.

I might be old in baseball time, but Im still young, Garza said. Ive just been (through) a lot. Ive seen a lot. Ive been to places where the organization was (near) the top. Players were first class. Thats just kind of what you emulate winners.

Ive been around the (Johan) Santanas. Ive been around (David) Price (and) some great arms. Ive been around some great veterans Torii Hunter, Rondell White, Cliff Floyd, Eric Hinske, Troy Percival.

Ive seen both ends of the spectrum, and I took what I wanted from them and just kind of wrote it off on these guys and keep them in mind (to) help them grow.

So for all the jittery energy and fast talking, there is another side to Garza. As Epstein once said, theres a method to the madness.

Matt Carpenter giving the Cubs Daniel Murphy PTSD

Matt Carpenter giving the Cubs Daniel Murphy PTSD

Say the name Daniel Murphy around Cubs fans (who have been around since before they won the 2016 World Series) and expect a dirty look or shade of some sort.

What Murphy did to the Cubs in the 2015 National League Championship Series still haunts the fanbase, even if they did end the championship drought the following fall.

Now, the Cubs are seeing it again and their PTSD is in overdrive.

St. Louis infielder Matt Carpenter has been on an unreal tear of late, setting Cardinals franchise records in the process.

Throughout this five-game series at Wrigley Field, Carpenter is 9-for-16 with 6 homers, 10 RBI, 8 runs scored, 3 walks, a pair of doubles and a bunt single to lead off Sunday's game against the Cubs' shift.

"We're seeing this guy probably at his best moment in his life as a baseball player," Joe Maddon said. "My god. We saw it a couple years ago in the playoffs. We're seeing it all over again.

"Similar kind of a swing, not missing anything. It's pretty impressive."

In that 2015 NLCS, Murphy — then with the New York Mets — homered in all 4 games while hitting .529 with a 1.850 OPS, driving in 6 and scoring 6. 

To put that in perspective: The Cubs scored only 8 runs as a team in the 4 games.

Maddon and the Cubs don't know what to do to get Carpenter out right now, so they've resorted to walking him whenever possible, like in the second inning Sunday when they just dealt out a free pass to the Cardinals infielder with runners on second and third and two outs.

They also tried out a funky shift in the seventh inning Sunday, with Kris Bryant as a fourth outfielder in left-center, Addison Russell as the only defender on the left side of the infield and Javy Baez playing on the grass in shallow right field. It worked, as Carpenter grounded it to Baez for a routine out.

Beyond that, all the Cubs can do is hope time eventually wears Carpenter down. After all, nobody can stay this hot forever.

Even though Carpenter and the Cardinals are leaving town after Sunday's game, these two team square off against each other again next weekend for the final series in St. Louis.

"For them, it's a blast to watch," Maddon said. "Give the guy credit. What he's working right now is unique. The last time I saw it was Daniel Murphy. 

"Before that, I think, was Barry Bonds in the World Series in 2002. Playoffs with Murphy a couple years ago, where the guy — every pitch that is thrown — he's on time, he's on balance with a forceful swing that looks like the ball can go out of the ballpark every time. Bonds, Murphy and now him."

That's some serious company to be in.

So what's led to this insane stretch from Carpenter?

Maybe it's the salsa.

When told about that theory, Maddon laughed and said:

"Listen, that makes total sense to me. Can he send a jar over here, please?"

Training Camp Daily: Defense still “picking” on Bears QB’s in rainy practices

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USA TODAY

Training Camp Daily: Defense still “picking” on Bears QB’s in rainy practices

Training Camp Daily: The Bears put the pads on for Sunday's practice on another wet day in Bourbonnais. Bears insider John 'Moon' Mullin & producer Paul Aspan discuss Mitchell Trubisky's accuracy, which continues to be a work in progress. Plus Anthony Miller & Kevin White turn heads, while Aaron Lynch suffers yet another injury setback when the Bears are already thin at pass rusher. 

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: