PHOENIX — Matt Garza stuck with the game plan Thursday, which meant the Brewers right-hander fed the Arizona Diamondbacks a steady diet of offspeed pitches.
It was a practice in patience for the fiery starter.
Garza allowed four runs on five hits, including a homer, over 3 1/3 innings in Milwaukee’s 8-5 win. Not his most flattering line.
“It’s frustrating because I want the results now, but I have to keep sticking with the process,” Garza said. “I could have gone through that lineup with my heater. But what does that do? What work do I get in?”
Instead, Garza kept searching for the feel with his slider and changeup.
“I don’t think there has been a time in my career where I’ve thrown back-to-back changes in any big league game,” Garza said. “Today, I probably threw eight sequences of back-of-back changeups. It’s a pitch I’m really trying to utilize.”
The 33-year-old is in the final year of a $50 million, four-year contract with Milwaukee. He is 20-30 with a 4.57 ERA in 72 games with the Brewers.
The past two seasons have been disappointing for him. He opened last year on the disabled list with a right lat strain and did not pitch until June 14. He went 6-8 with a 4.51 ERA in 19 starts. In 2016, he went 6-14 with a 5.63 ERA.
Garza, who won 15 games in 2010 with Tampa Bay, has thrown a no-hitter and started a World Series game in 2008 with the Rays. He said he is optimistic he will have a big season.
“I busted my fanny this offseason, so if I don’t, then it’s all for nothing,” Garza said. “I killed myself. I’m finally back to feeling like me. I’m going to be hardheaded and stick with my process this spring. I know it’s going to stink for a while.
“But it can’t be worse than having the years I’ve had in `15 and part of `16. It’s one of those things where it’s a full commitment and I’m just going to keep going.”
In four exhibition starts, Garza has an 8.31 ERA, allowing eight runs on 14 hits and four walks without a strikeout.
“I know how to pitch and how to get outs, but right now it’s just applying my other stuff to that process,” he said. “I’m going to get outs. That’s the job. Now I’m trying to get my work in. In a regular season game, you have to go to survival mode.”
Brewers manager Craig Counsell believes what Garza is doing now will pay off in the season.
“I think that’s the tough part when you’re out there competing, sticking with something and trying to improve on it to be able to go to during the season,” Counsell said. “He threw a lot of offspeed first pitches and fell behind on some hitters.
“That’s always a recipe for a little bit of trouble. He kept throwing them. He’s going to have to be able to throw a first pitch breaking ball, a 2-0 slider. It’s part of how he’s going to have to pitch.”