Garza bounces back with landmark win against former team

Matt Garza yields just two earned runs on four hits in seven innings against the Cubs to earn his first Brewers win.

Darren Hauck/Darren Hauck/Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — Matt Garza told reporters in March that he enjoyed playing for the Chicago Cubs, but he wanted to "kick their teeth in every time" he got to pitch against his former team.

In what likely was the first of many battles against the Cubs over the next four years, Garza allowed just two earned runs on four hits in seven innings, earning his first win with the Brewers in Milwaukee’s 5-2 victory at Miller Park.

Garza bounced back from a start in which he allowed five earned runs in five innings by featuring his good stuff Friday night.

"This one was more like his first outing here at home where he really went after guys," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "Command was good, stuff was good. I thought the fastball was outstanding tonight. He threw a lot of good sliders, mixed in his curveball, but he really went after guys."

Afterwards, Garza insisted there weren’t any added emotions in facing the team that traded him last July.

"I’ve been on five different teams, man," Garza said. "If I had to get up for everybody (I used to pitch for), I’d be tired by midseason. It was just another ballgame, just another club I’ve got to give my team a chance to win (against)."

Brewers 5, Cubs 2

Unlike Garza’s previous starts at home, the Brewers provided the right-hander with run support against Carlos Villanueva. Junior Lake misplayed a ball in left field during the first inning to allow Milwaukee’s first run of the night to score on what was ruled a double for Scooter Gennett.

Ryan Braun added an RBI single in the bottom of the first, while the Cubs took advantage of a leadoff walk in the third inning to score their first run off Garza.

Villanueva bunted Ryan Sweeney up to second and Emilio Bonifacio delivered a two-out RBI single to center to cut Milwaukee’s lead to 2-1.

A two-out RBI single from Jonathan Lucroy in the bottom of the third and a solo home run from Lyle Overbay in the fourth inning increased the Brewers’s lead to 4-1, and an Aramis Ramirez sacrifice fly in the fifth made it 5-1.

After retiring 10 of 11 batters from the final out of the third inning through the sixth, Garza allowed back-to-back hits to start the seventh. He was able to limit the damage and allow just one run to score after the Cubs had runners at second and third and nobody out.

"I just wanted to go out and establish my gameplan, my mechanics and keep myself in line and not get too overamped or anything like that," Garza said. "Felt great. Our guys played a great game today. Good thing it didn’t come down to me hitting. It was a plus on all sides."

Garza made 60 starts over 2½ seasons (2011-13) with the Cubs, going 21-18 with a 3.45 ERA. He suffered through the beginning stages of what has been a multi-year rebuilding project for Chicago (71-91 in 2011, 61-101 in ’12) before being dealt to the Texas Rangers last July when the Cubs were 10 games under .500.

"It’s a lot of fun when you win," Garza said. "When you go through three years of constantly hoping, you kind of run out of hope. Come to a team like this, where every day we’re going out to win — not hoping to win — it’s a lot different. A lot different emotion, a lot better emotion. It’s confidence.

"That’s what we’re playing with a lot of right now. It’s just great to be here right now and I’m happy where I’m at and I love going out there and giving my team a shot to win every five days."

Behind Garza, the Brewers improved to a major-league best 17-6 on the season. Milwaukee has received quality starts in 18 of its 23 games, tied with Atlanta for the most in baseball. The pitching continues to keep the Brewers in games, while the offense does enough to win.

This was what the Brewers envisioned when they signed Garza to a four-year, $50 million contract this winter.

"We’re playing good baseball," Roenicke said. "It’s not every day. We’ve won some games when we haven’t played that well. But the pitchers are going out and continuing to give us a good outing almost every time and the bullpen is as sharp as they’ve been — they’re all sharp, all of them are pitching well."

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