Matt Garza’s lot in life is as a hired gun. He knows it, and he’s reached the point in his baseball career where he’s embraced it. That’s why Garza is in Arlington.
“I want to get us to October now. That’s it,” Garza said in a press conference following his Rangers debut Wednesday night.
October means playoff baseball. That’s something the Texas Rangers have gotten used to lately. That’s why the Rangers sent up to five players to the Chicago Cubs to acquire Garza.
The Rangers need a rotation stopper, someone who can win a game after a loss.
The early returns? Garza threw seven-plus innings, gave up five hits, and scored a 3-1 victory over the New York Yankees.
He is well-versed in the crucible of a pennant race. “That’s been my mentality since I got to the majors,” Garza said. “When I was called up in 2006, it was in the middle of a pennant race.”
That was with the Minnesota Twins. As a rookie, Garza went 3-6 and made 10 starts, but he gave the Twins valuable innings as they worked toward a division title.
Tampa Bay liked what they saw. Garza was the centerpiece of a deal after the 2007 season that sent him to the Rays for outfielder Delmon Young.
“In 2008 I was traded to solidify a rotation and help a team get to the postseason,” Garza said. He went 11-9 and helped the Rays reach their first World Series.
After the 2010 season, the Rangers actually wanted him via trade. But the Chicago Cubs beat the Rangers to the punch. In two-and-a-half seasons, Garza never pitched in the postseason but still had a winning record.
“With the Cubs, I was the same piece. We just didn’t have any offense,” Garza said.
So here is Garza, once again, in a situation in which a team needs him to shore up a playoff run. His victory was exactly what the Rangers needed after being swept by Baltimore after the All-Star Break.
The Rangers need a rotation stopper, someone who can win a game after a loss. Yu Darvish got back to doing that on Monday. Garza followed up the Rangers’ loss on Tuesday with a win.
Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said Garza has already done plenty for the mentality of a team frustrated by injuries to the starting rotation. His performance on Wednesday was nothing new.
“Garza pounded the strike zone with a vengeance,” Washington said. “But he’s always been a strike thrower. Always kept it in play. Always able to strike out guys when it’s necessary. He’s a big-time pitcher.”
And emotional. When Washington went out to get Garza in the eighth inning, the pitcher screamed into his glove several times on his way back to the dugout.
Washington said that all Garza told him was “Okay,” although Garza’s grit and competitiveness leads any casual observer to believe that there might have been more to it than that.
“I hate losing,” Garza said. “It’s not fun. Who wants to come [to the majors] and lose? Everyone who gets to this level has that edge. I’m just a little more showy about it than a lot of other people.”
Of course, if Garza continues to pitch the rest of this season the way he pitched against the Yankees, the Rangers will accept those occasional guttural outbursts. As the trade and Garza’s performance demonstrates, it’s all about October now. That’s why he’s here.