Garza must learn from past failure
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Matt Garza doesn't really walk around the Minnesota Twins clubhouse so much as he struts. He is the picture of California cool, the West Coast kid with a chip on his shoulder from Fresno. Before starts he likes to sit in the c...
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Matt Garza doesn't really walk around the Minnesota Twins clubhouse so much as he struts.
He is the picture of California cool, the West Coast kid with a chip on his shoulder from Fresno. Before starts he likes to sit in the chair in front of his locker, put his head phones on and read a book, which draws disbelieving smirks and head scratches from teammates the clubhouse over.
And up until his previous start, all the bravado that seemed to be oozing out of his pores was the product of unbridled success in his second stint in the majors. He was nearly untouchable in one relief appearance and two starts, allowing just one unearned run in 15 innings of work.
On Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels, Garza came back down to earth, and the Twins desperately need him to bounce back if they hope to make a run for the AL playoffs.
Garza's next start comes Sunday in Cleveland -- against ace C.C. Sabathia -- in the finale of a three-game series that begins Friday and could decide Minnesota's postseason fate. And the Twins are hoping their 23-year-old fireballer is a fast learner.
Perhaps a little too pumped up in front of the home crowd and hoping to lead his Twins to sweep of the Angels last Sunday, Garza needed 33 pitches to get through the first inning and 51 to get through two. He walked home a run with the bases loaded in the first and gave up an RBI single to Chone Figgins in the second to quickly fall behind 2-0.
"Just kind of one of those really slow performances where you feel like you're playing defense all the time and not enough offense and that never works," manager Ron Gardenhire said after the 7-2 loss.
The encouraging thing for the Twins was that Garza shrugged off that slow start to pitch into the sixth inning, allowing four runs -- only three earned -- and seven hits.
Disastrous? Hardly. Just not what he was used to doing since being called up at the end of June.
"Not really pressing, I was just trying to be too perfect and get that perfect pitch," Garza said. "As a pitcher, you can't do that. You're just going to keep piling them on and piling them on and piling them on if you try to make that perfect pitch."
Even more encouraging was the way he handled himself while being peppered with questions about the disappointment. It was almost as if he'd forgotten it altogether.
"I felt better than my last start," Garza said. "I felt like I had everything. I just put myself in tough situations and got beat this time."
That short-term memory is going to be critical during this weekend's series at Jacobs Field.
If things go terribly wrong and the Twins get swept, they could be as many as 11½ games out of the wild-card race -- needing a comeback even more miraculous than last season's to climb back into contention.
"They're looking for me to try to save the bullpen and not go 5, 5, 4, 3, like I did last year," Garza said. "I want to keep building on each start. This didn't start out great, but I was able to stay composed and keep going and extend the game to the later innings."
If he doesn't, in this start and each one thereafter, it will be a short year for the Twins. But Garza doesn't seem too worried. Good outing or bad outing, that confidence isn't going anywhere.
"Keep on winning and try to keep in this race," Garza said. "If we keep pitching the way we do, play defense and score runs, it's not really if we can do this -- we WILL do it."