Matt Garza is certainly hoping his second start back in Tampa Bay goes smoother than his first.
The Milwaukee Brewers might need it to be near perfect Tuesday night against the Rays since their lineup has done little in the last couple of games to give them a chance.
Feeble offense has led to losses in three of four for the Brewers (59-48), who have scored eight runs with a .165 average in that stretch after losing Monday’s series opener 2-1 with just three hits.
That’s begun to overshadow a longer run of dominance on the mound for Milwaukee. In eight games, the Brewers have limited opponents to 16 runs with a .185 average, which would normally be more than enough pitching for the NL’s No. 2 scoring team.
Going along with the trend, Garza (7-7, 3.87 ERA) threw a gem the last time out, limiting the New York Mets to a run and two hits in eight innings of Thursday’s 9-1 victory. It was needed after he allowed five earned runs while recording only one out in an 8-3 loss in Washington on July 19.
"Personally, it was just getting back to where I’ve been," Garza told MLB’s official website. "Keep pitching, keep attacking. The last outing 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."
This will be just his second career start against his former club, for which he was named the 2008 ALCS MVP, and he’ll be hoping for a drastic improvement. Garza allowed six runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 6-2 loss on Sept. 16 in Tampa Bay while pitching for Texas.
Tampa Bay (52-54) improved to 5-2 all-time against the Brewers and has won 10 of 11 overall thanks in large part to a staff that has posted a 1.45 ERA and .196 opponent average.
"Our guys have a good vibe right now," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.
Alex Cobb gets the responsibility of keeping it going.
Cobb (6-6, 3.76) also had one of his best starts of the season in Wednesday’s 3-0 win in St. Louis, allowing five hits while striking out 10 without a walk in seven innings. He’s 4-0 with a 3.07 ERA in his last five starts, and he said the latest was the best he’s felt, despite getting hit by a pitch on his throwing elbow.
"Tonight’s the most comfortable I’ve felt on the mound, hands-down, since I’ve come back (from an oblique injury on May 22)," Cobb said. "Even before that, tonight was the most in-synch I’ve felt."
His interleague career has resulted in a 6-3 record and 3.41 ERA in 10 starts, though he’s yet to face Milwaukee. Mark Reynolds is 0 for 7 with five strikeouts against Cobb.
Reynolds’ home run in the series opener accounted for Milwaukee’s offense and gave the all-or-nothing slugger four home runs in his last five games.
”That’s baseball. You go through hot streaks, cold streaks,” Reynolds said. ”The good teams find consistency in between. We’re just not swinging well right now. At this time next week, we might be talking about how hot we are.”
The top three batters in the Milwaukee lineup Monday – Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun – are a combined 0 for 24 over the last two games.
Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett played Monday for the first time since hurting his right quadriceps last Tuesday. He struck out in all three at-bats.
First baseman James Loney drove in both Tampa Bay runs to reach base for a 17th straight game.