MILWAUKEE — Matt Garza entered his start in Washington last Saturday on a roll, which made his 42-pitch outing in which he recorded just one out and allowed five earned runs even stranger than it already was.
The right-hander made sure it was just a blip on the radar by bouncing back with a fantastic performance Thursday.
Garza allowed just two hits and one run over eight innings, as the Brewers offense broke out for 10 hits in a 9-1 victory over the New York Mets in front of 29,755 fans at Miller Park.
The win — Milwaukee’s fourth in a row — gained the Brewers a half game in the National League Central standings, as their lead now stands at three games over St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
"Personally, it was just getting back to where I’ve been," Garza said. "Just keep pitching and keep attacking. The last outing, it was what it was. I threw good pitches but stuff kept falling. Tonight, it was ground balls to our guys and they kept most of the stuff in the yard so it was great.
"The biggest thing was I kept this thing rolling. The guys have been swinging the bat well and I got an early cushion so it was easy to keep attacking. It was one of those nights that everything clicked on offense and that made my job a lot easier."
Garza entered his outing against the Nationals with a 2.40 ERA over his previous six starts. He allowed five hits in his one-third of an inning in Washington but just one ball was hit hard. The fact he walked two batters didn’t help, but Garza certainly didn’t pitch as bad as his final line showed.
That left the right-hander confident he could put the worst statistical outing of his career behind him, and it showed Thursday night. Garza was on the attack from the beginning and allowed just an infield hit to Wilmer Flores and a solo home run to Lucas Duda in the seventh.
"He located the fastball really well," manager Ron Roenicke said. "He mixed in enough sliders and the curveball, but really his fastball was outstanding today — good life on it, good location.
"You could see right away he was attacking the zone with the fastball. When he’s good, that’s what he does so well."
Facing a pitcher who had allowed three or fewer runs in six straight starts, the Brewers blew the game open in the first three innings. Jonathan Lucroy blasted a solo home run off Dillon Gee in the first, but the floodgates began to open in the second inning.
After a pair of one-out walks, Jean Segura drove in a pair of runs with a triple to the right-center gap. Carlos Gomez and Lucroy followed with RBI singles to put the Brewers up 5-0.
Back-to-back doubles from Rickie Weeks and Khris Davis made it 6-0 in the third, while a solo home run from Davis in the sixth and a 445-foot, two-run shot from Ryan Braun in the seventh added on to the rout.
"Hitting is contagious," Davis said. "Once we start popping them out of the yard it feels like everybody is going to start."
After the Brewers struggled so mightily to score runs during their stretch of 11 losses in 12 games prior to the All-Star break, Milwaukee has averaged 5.6 runs in its last eight games. It hasn’t been against slouch pitchers either, as the Brewers have faced good pitching teams in Washington, Cincinnati and now the Mets.
"I don’t know why," Roenicke said of the offense starting to hit again. "With the pitching staff we have, I’d hope to think the offense doesn’t all go cold like we did. I think if we’re more consistent with it, I would think with our staff — we may have some bad stretches, but not have a streak where you are losing a lot in a row."
After everything seemed to go wrong for Garza and the Brewers last Saturday, things couldn’t have gone better against the Mets. The offense jumped out to a fast start and eventually put the game away, while Garza didn’t allow the Mets any sort of opportunity to rally.
Just like Milwaukee has put its late first-half rough patch behind it, Garza took his rough outing in Washington and put it in his rear-view mirror.
"Just have to be happy the way things turned out the way they did," Garza said. "It’s easy to pitch when you have a six-run lead. It’s easy to attack. Day-to-day and let’s keep this thing going."