Garza shows why the Rangers dealt for him

BY foxsports • July 24, 2013

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Matt Garza couldn't have made a better impression on his new team in his Texas Rangers debut Wednesday night.

Garza, whom the Rangers have coveted for several years, didn't allow an earned run in 7 1/3 innings and guided Texas to just its third victory in the last 11 games in a 3-1 win over New York.

The right-hander, who was acquired from the Chicago Cubs Monday in what could turn out to be a five for one trade, did everything the Rangers wanted and everything he expected out of himself in his first start for the playoff hopefuls.

No nerves. No extra excitement. Garza just went out and allowed five hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out five.

"We are in a playoff hunt aren't we?" Garza said. "We're trying to make it to October so every game's a big game. I don't care who's on the other side. Every game counts. This thing's not going to be won right now. It's going to be won down the stretch but these games count like every other one."

Garza showed Wednesday that the Texas chances of making it to the playoffs have increased with Garza pitching.

He allowed back-to-back singles to open the game but then retired the next nine hitters. The only New York run that scored came after Garza threw wildly to first on a Brett Gardner hit, allowing Gardner to get to third to open the sixth inning. He scored one out later on a Robinson Cano single to tie the game at one.

The Ranger put Garza in a position to win the game in the bottom of the inning on an A.J. Pierzynski solo homer. That was all the offense Garza and the combination of Neal Cotts and Joe Nathan needed to turn Garza's debut into a victorious one.

"It's the same thing I always saw when he pitched against us," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "The guy can execute pitches. He never gets rattled and I think you saw that tonight especially after we took a 2-1 lead. That's what you look forward to with those guys on the mound."

After Garza retired the first two batters of the eighth inning, Brent Lillibridge hit a grounder to third that Adrian Beltre booted for a two-base error. Instead of letting that error bother him, Garza needed just one pitch to retire Melky Mesa and end the threat.

That error wasn't a big deal to Garza, nor was getting thrown into a playoff race after spending the first part of the season toiling for the lowly Cubs.

"It's nothing different," said Garza, who has won a career high six-consecutive starts. "I've still got to pitch. The dimensions are the same. Ninety-foot bases, 60-foot, 6 inches mound to plate. I just go out there and give my team the best chance to win today."

Garza said he already knew some of his new teammates from his previous stops in Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Chicago. He went a long way towards making new friends after his performance Wednesday, which was better than the Texas debuts of other recent hired guns Cliff Lee and Ryan Dempster.

"He went out there against the Yankees, a team he's faced several times, and dealt," said Pierzynski, who in addition to the homer gave Texas a 1-0 lead in the first. "That's all you can say. He dealt. He threw the ball over the plate, multiple pitches over the plate, and was just in total command of the game it seemed the whole time."   

All five of the New York hits off Garza were singles and he was a strike thrower, with 66 of his 95 pitches in the zone. The Yankees had multiple baserunners against him in two just innings.

"He pounded the zone with a vengeance," Washington said. "But he's always been a strike thrower. He's always kept the ball in play. He's always able to strike out hitters when necessary. He's a big-time pitcher and that was a big-time performance for us tonight."

Throwing strikes with a vengeance isn't the only thing Garza strives for. Garza, who's known for a fiery temperament, doesn't accept losing well.

That's the kind of mentality a Texas team that trails Oakland by three games in the American League West needs. He made it clear that his demeanor won't change with his new team.

"I hate losing," he said. "It's not fun. Who wants to come here and lose? I think everybody that got to this level has that edge. I'm just a little more showy about it than a lot of other people. That's just my mentality. I hate losing. I don't like to be a part of losing."

There was nothing to hate for the Rangers or Garza Wednesday.