Baseball / Sports

Chicago Cubs pitcher Hector Rondon works against the Milwaukee Brewers in the ninth inning at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Saturday, May 17, 2014. The Cubs won, 3-0. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Brewers fail to support Garza again in loss to Cubs

CHICAGO -- Another poor opening inning was more than enough to do Matt Garza in Saturday.

In his first game back at Wrigley Field since being traded by the Chicago Cubs last July, the right-hander surrendered three runs in the first inning and then got zero help from his offense.

Cubs starter Edwin Jackson allowed just four hits -- all singles -- while striking out a season-high 11, and the Milwaukee Brewers ultimately fell, 3-0, in front of a crowd of 36,671 on a brisk but sunny afternoon.

"We need to get some more runs, obviously," conceded manager Ron Roenicke. "The pitchers have been throwing so well that they've been keeping us in games. It would be nice to come out and get a bunch of runs for them. We'll certainly do better than what we've been doing."

The shutout was the fourth this season for the Brewers and their second in three weeks against the last-place Cubs.

Three of those shutouts have come in starts made by Garza. The Brewers have failed to score since the second inning of Friday's 4-3 victory, a span of 16 innings, while striking out a whopping 28 times in the two games.

"It's like a snowball," said first baseman Mark Reynolds, who was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts Saturday.

"Once it starts rolling one way, you get hot in a hurry. If it starts rolling the other way, it kind of spills over to the whole team. I think yesterday off (Jeff) Samardzija, we got a couple early hits, a couple early runs and put some good at-bats together, and today was kind of the opposite.

"That's baseball, man -- one day you're good, next day you're scuffling."

And the Brewers indeed scuffled in this one, despite Ryan Braun returning to the lineup. Centerfielder Carlos Gomez was a late scratch as he continues to deal with a troublesome lower back.

Braun and Jonathan Lucroy each singled with two outs in the first inning against Jackson only to see Reynolds strike out to end the budding rally.

"We had a good chance. Other than that, there wasn't much going on," Roenicke said. "We just didn't do anything."

The Cubs then responded in the bottom of the frame with all the offense they'd need against Garza, whose return to Chicago drew nowhere near the boos Braun did at the outset.

Emilio Bonifacio led off with a bunt single, moved up to second on another bunt, went to third on a groundout and scored on a double by Starlin Castro.

Garza followed by walking Nate Schierholtz, and Welington Castillo made him pay by doubling into the left-field corner to score both runners. That made it 3-0 Chicago and left Garza's first-inning earned-run average in nine starts at 10.00.

"First inning was a hiccup, and it sucks," Garza said. "It's kind of been what it's been like all year. It just sucks."

Following that two-hit first the Brewers managed just three base-runners over the next six innings against Jackson, who repeatedly mowed through the lineup.

Milwaukee got a second-inning walk from Logan Schafer, a fourth-inning single from Lucroy and a seventh-inning single from Jean Segura, and that was it. It appeared as if Chicago manager Rick Renteria was talked out of lifting Jackson by the right-hander himself on the mound in that seventh, and he rewarded Renteria's confidence by finishing the inning.

He exited after throwing 115 pitches.

"They staked him to an early three-run lead and he didn't have to go out there and nibble, really," Reynolds said. "He could just pitch his game. I think if he felt like he was going to make a mistake, it wasn't going to hurt him much. You see that a lot of times when a starting pitcher gets an early lead; he goes out there and throws strikes, doesn't walk people, gets ahead and it results in a loss."

It was a tough pill to swallow for Garza, who rebounded from that rough opening inning to pitch just as well as Jackson. He faced only two over the minimum over those same six innings, one of which reached on a Jeff Bianchi error, and retired 12 in a row at one point.

He left after the seventh having allowed four hits, three runs (earned) and a walk to go along with seven strikeouts.

"I felt really good, having good rhythm, good tempo and was finishing a lot of my pitches," he said about his strong finish. "It's a small step, but it's still not what I like."

A 2-4 record and 4.83 ERA undoubtedly wasn't how Garza envisioned opening the season after signing a four-year, $52 million free-agent contract with the Brewers in the off-season.

When asked if he was frustrated with how things have gone, the fiery Garza left no doubt.

'"Of course I'm frustrated, man," he said. "What, do you think I'm happy? It's the worst freaking start (to a season) of my career, dude. Yeah, I'm frustrated. I hate this, I hate this feeling.

"It's just keep grinding and keep getting ready every five days. That's about it. That's about all I can do."

Garza has never taken issue with the Brewers' inconsistent offense after one of his starts, but Roenicke conceded that not getting support can take its toll on a pitcher.

"If it happens a lot it can, because then it becomes him trying to go out there and be perfect," he said. "It's harder to pitch that way. The first inning on, you feel like if you get behind you're going to lose the game, and that certainly shouldn't be the case with our offense. We should still have a chance.

"He did his part. He threw up six zeros after that and we didn't do anything."

(c)2014 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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