CHICAGO -- Anyone watching the Chicago Cubs' 8-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday would have assumed that Matt Garza was not at the top of his game. Even his manager Mike Quade felt that something just wasn’t right.
“Garza fought with himself all day, just never really could get on track and get in sync,” Quade said. “I’ve seen him [do it] before, struggle . . . and he finds a way to settle down and keep us in it, just wasn’t his day.”
Garza started the game by giving up a single to Michael Bourn, then followed that up by allowing Martin Prado to reach on an error. Brian McCann did the rest with a booming home run through a 16 mph wind that immediately put the Cubs in a 3-0 hole.
Garza felt that it was more about balls finding holes than the Braves hitters beating him.
“It is what it is, man,” a clearly disappointed Garza said. “I really can’t say much, Bourn starts the game off with a jam shot. Prado gets the same thing, a slow roller. It’s just frustrating, oh well. Get ready in five more days, right?”
When pressed as to if the quality of his pitches were at their normal level, Garza stayed the course.
“You could see of the stuff they were hitting, they didn’t hit me hard. Two hits, the hit to [Dan] Uggla and the home run, that’s it,” Garza said. “Everything else were jam shots or hit off the end of the bat, so it’s not like I missed my spots big time. I made a mistake to… it’s not even a mistake, it was a good pitch to McCann, a change-up down, he just went and got it. Uggla, I knew what he was looking for so I just tried to beat him. He hit a hard single to dead center. So you just tip your cap and say whatever, back in five days.”
Despite falling behind by three, the Cubs mounted an initial comeback, tying the game back up. However, Garza couldn’t hold the Braves at bay as he ended the day with only five innings pitched, giving up six runs (three earned) on eight hit and two walks.
“I battled my butt off today, it just is what it is,” said a seemingly shell-shocked Garza. “Just one of those things, can’t explain it, don’t have any words for it, I’m dumb-founded basically.”
The Cubs defense didn’t do their pitchers any favors; they committed four errors, leading to four unearned runs.
“We didn’t execute very well on defense all the way around,” said Darwin Barney, who committed one of the four errors. “You have those days, we’re trying to eliminate that. We’ve been playing very well defensively for the past while, so it was kind of weird to see that.”
Though errors are only one indicator of how a defense plays, the fact that the Cubs lead all of baseball with 108 can’t lead one to any other conclusion than that the defense is a major liability. Carlos Pena knows that if the Cubs plan on turning their fortunes around next season, the gloves are going to have to improve.
“You want to be a winner you’ve got to play good defense,” said Pena. “As a team we want to be a better defensive ball club. They say pitching and defense wins ball games.”
The fact that the Cubs have struggled to do either well on a consistent basis is the primary reason this team sits 17 games below .500 and 20.5 games out of a playoff spot.