Garza Worth the Wait – Cubs 3, Astros 1

Game Seventy-Two – Cubs 3, Astros 1

WP – Matt Garza (2-1) LP – Dallas Keuchel (4-4) Save – Kevin Gregg (11)

wflag-pubRain delayed the start of Friday’s game for three hours and 18 minutes, but once the game got started, it was all about Matt Garza. Garza put together a gem against the Astros and rode three solo homers to a victory over Houston.

Matt Garza dominated the Astros for eight innings and took the hill in the ninth in search of his first complete game since September of 2011. Garza issued a leadoff walk to Jose Altuve and Dale Sveum went to his pen for Kevin Gregg to close it out.

Garza pounded the strike zone and appeared to get stronger as the game wore on. Garza made only one mistake on the afternoon and limited the Astros to a Chris Carter solo home run in eight-plus innings, his longest outing of the season. Garza struck out the side swinging in the eighth which accounted for three of his eight strikeouts on the afternoon. Garza allowed only four hits, two to Chris Carter, and issued two walks on 98 pitches, 63 for strikes … only 25 pitches out of the strike zone.

Anthony Rizzo (2-for-4 with a home run) and Darwin Barney (3-for-4 with a home run and a double) led the way for the offense on Friday. Rizzo led off the fourth with a towering blast off of lefty Dallas Keuchel that ended up on Sheffield Avenue. Rizzo’s first home run since May 18 broke a scoreless tie.

Darwin Barney cranked his fourth longball of the year leading off the fifth inning and gave Garza a little breathing room. Scott Hairston (1-for-3 with a home run and a walk) hit the Cubs’ third solo home run of the day in the sixth inning.

Starlin Castro (1-for-4 with a double) doubled in the eighth off reliever Paul Clemens to join the Cubs’ hit parade on Friday. Every player in Dale Sveum’s starting eight recorded at least one hit with the exception of Cody Ransom … and Ransom reached base with a walk.

The offense pounded out 10 hits for only the third time in 15 games but continued to struggle with runners on base and in scoring position. The Cubs were 0-for-3 with RISP and left seven men on base.

With Friday’s win, the Cubs improved to 30-42 on the season.

After Matt Garza retired the side in order on nine pitches to start the game, Darwin Barney led off the Cubs’ first inning with a single to left. Cody Ransom worked a full count before he struck out swinging. Barney was running with the pitch and Jason Castro threw him out to complete the strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play. Soriano followed with a single but did not advance. Rizzo grounded out to third to end the inning.

Chris Carter led off the second with a double off the base of the wall in right. Garza retired Pena on a liner to center and Maxwell on a grounder to third. Matt Dominguez walked to put runners on first and second with two out. But Garza retired Marwin Gonzalez on a flyout to center to end the inning.

Matt Garza faced the minimum in the third and needed only 35 pitches, 22 for strikes, to complete three innings on Friday. The Cubs wasted another scoring chance in the home half of the third and the game went to the fourth with no score.

Anthony Rizzo was first up for the Cubs in the fourth after Matt Garza made quick work of Houston in the top half. Rizzo launched Keuchel’s first pitch down the line in right and onto Sheffield. Rizzo’s first home run in more than a month (May 18) gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead.

Dioner Navarro reached on a one out single then advanced to second when Ryan Sweeney flipped the lineup by singling to right with two down. Matt Garza struck out to end the inning but Sweeney’s single paid dividends the next inning.

Garza mowed down Houston in the fifth … 1-2-3 and it took Garza only 53 pitches, 34 for strikes, to complete five innings of work.

Darwin Barney led off the fifth with a long home run to the bleachers in left. Dallas Keuchel hung a breaking ball on 1-2 and Barney deposited the ball in the bleachers. Barney’s fourth homer, second in five games, put the Cubs up by two. Anthony Rizzo reached on a two out single in the fifth, his second hit of the game, but Castro was caught looking to end the inning.

At the end of five, the Cubs led 2-0.

Scott Hairston made it 3-0 Cubs with one out in the sixth with his sixth longball of the season. But both Sweeney and Garza struck out to end the inning.

Matt Garza gave up his first run in 13 innings when Chris Carter led off the seventh with a solo shot just to the right of straight away centerfield. Carter cut the Cubs lead to 3-1. Garza struck out Carlos Pena before Justin Maxwell reached on a bunt single. Garza fielded the ball but threw it away. Maxwell was not paying attention and ran through the bag. Instead of a runner on second with one out, Matt Dominguez stepped in with a runner on first and grounded into a 6-4-3 inning ending double play.

The Cubs could not cash in a one out ground rule double by Starlin Castro in the eighth. Castro smoked a 2-2 pitch from Clemens over Carter’s head in left. The ball stuck in the ivy and Castro had a double. Navarro grounded out to second, Castro advanced to third and held when Scott Hairston worked a two out walk. Before a 2-2 pitch to Sweeney, Hairston wandered too far off first. Lefty Travis Blackley stepped off the rubber and threw to first. Pena ran Hairston toward second. Gonzalez caught the ball, saw Castro break from third and threw to the plate. Castro tagged out Castro to end the inning.

Matt Garza took the hill to start the ninth. Garza missed badly on the first three pitches to Jose Altuve before throwing a strike. Garza ended up walking Altuve on a 3-2 pitch. Dale Sveum made the slow walk and went to his pen for Kevin Gregg.

Kevin Gregg retired Castro (flyout to center), Carter (strikeout) and Pena (groundout to Barney in the shift) to end the game.

Travis Wood takes on Bud Norris in game two with the Astros on Saturday afternoon.

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