New Rangers pitcher Matt Garza certainly looked like the answer Wednesday night. Unfortunately, that’s not the question facing Texas.
Now the Rangers can address their real problem that has haunted them all season long. A lack of offense.
Historically, that’s been as big a challenge for Texas baseball teams as frostbite. But the Rangers bats have yet to heat up, which is why the trade for Garza is only the first of likely two moves.
Garza pitched extremely well in his debut, allowing only an unearned run over 7 1/3 strong innings, posting a 3-1 win over the Yankees. He has a reputation as a big-game pitcher and didn’t disappoint. “We’re in a playoff race, aren’t we?” he said. “Every game is a big game.”
Texas has just one regular hitting better than .300 and ranks sixth in batting and ninth in runs in the American League. Elvis Andrus hasn’t hit all year and Mitch Moreland hasn’t hit lefties consistently. David Murphy has been mostly invisible but did homer Wednesday, and sadly Lance Berkman’s power is gone.
Other than Adrian Beltre’s power, the Rangers’ only credible deep threats are Nelson Cruz with some production from Ian Kinsler and A.J. Pierzynski, who homered Wednesday for his 10th of the year. But if you haven’t kept up, Cruz might be rooming soon with Biogenic culprit Ryan Braun in major-league baseball’s outhouse.
But pitching? That just got fixed, even if it wasn’t all that broken.
To bolster an injury-battling pitching staff that already ranks third in the American League in ERA, Texas got a lot better with the acquisition of one of the Cubs top pitchers and the anticipated return of two other Rangers starters from surgery in the near future.
Garza’s gutty. He looks intimidating with his goatee on steroids. He pitches with an edge. He’s pitched in the playoffs as well as in the rugged AL East. You can’t get any more tested than that.
“I hate losing,” he said. “It’s not fun.”
And while the Rangers have pursued the power pitcher for two years, they consider the looming free agent worth the $4 million left on his contract as possibly a late-season rental. But could he make Texas his home?
“Yeah, I love Texas,” he said. “I don’t mind the heat.”
Of the summer or the pennant race.
It’s clear Texas is all in, gunning for its first World Series flag.
The Rangers realize there’s no super team in baseball this year. The Red Sox, Cardinals and A’s have had remarkable first halves, but they’re not scary good.
If Garza can make the difference in one win, he’ll be well worth it. History’s still very fresh on the Rangers’ minds after staying in first place 178 days last summer and losing the division title to Oakland by a single game.
“We found that out last year,” manager Ron Washington said. “A couple of games we thought we had ended up biting us.”
Garza looked strong, checking a checkered Yankees lineup on five soft hits with no walks and five strikeouts. True, the New York lineup included one All-Star in Robinson Cano and a whole lot of Melky Mesas and Brent Lillibridges.
Garza won’t top the rotation but will fit in nicely behind ace Yu Darvish and the much-improved Derek Holland and round out a fivesome that includes Alexi Ogando and a growing Martin Perez. If Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis return from their surgeries, Ogando might return to a deep bullpen.
“It’s huge,” Holland said of the Garza pickup.
Let’s face it. Garza’s not Cliff Lee, the control freak left-hander Texas got from Seattle a couple of years ago, a move it parlayed into a World Series berth. But in a shrinking market for pitching with fewer sellers, thanks to two wild cards in each league, Garza will do fine. Besides, by bringing him to Arlington, Texas kept him out of Oakland.
In an added bonus, Texas adds Garza nine days before the July 31 trading deadline and benefits from a couple of extra starts from him before August.
“He pounded the zone with a vengeance,” Washington said. “He never gets rattled. Our starting rotation is getting solid, and he makes it more solid.”
It’s about time. Four-fifths of his rotation has spent time on the disabled list, but the starters are finally getting healthy for the stretch run. Stingy pitching could compensate for lagging offense when runs are at a premium.
In addition, Lewis has had two rehab starts, and Harrison threw a live batting practice session Wednesday.
“My arm feels good,” Harrison said. “No pain at all. Starting is like riding a bike. You get your feel back real quickly.”
As for the playoffs, the Rangers are feeling that, too.
RANGERS: UP IN ARMS
The addition of Matt Garza — the former Chicago Cub who made his debut with Texas on Wednesday night — gives the Rangers a solid rotation. Here’s how Kirk Bohls sees their staff:
1-Yu Darvish (RH);9-4;2.86;All-Star leads all MLB starters in Ks. Great top to rotation.
2-Matt Garza (RH);6-1;3.17;Power pitcher was 5-0 in his last six Cubs starts.
3-Derek Holland (LH);8-5;3.10;Finally showing some consistency, composure.
4-Alexi Ogando (RH);4-2;3.13;Showed good command in first post-DL start.
5-Martin Perez (LH);3-3;3.40;Better poise, location in latest Rangers stint.
Note: Matt Harrison (back) and Colby Lewis (elbow) are both rehabbing from surgeries.