Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

September 2011 Archives

Cubs' Garza breaks even, looks for bigger things in '12

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He didn't get the 200 he wanted. But Matt Garza will settle for .500.

The Cubs' best pitcher all season long - and by far their hardest-luck pitcher - pitched another seven strong innings to beat the San Diego Padres 6-2 late Tuesday night to earn his fourth straight victory and finish his first season as a Cub 10-10.

``I don't consider him a .500 pitcher,'' manager Mike Quade said of his most consistent pitcher in 2011. ``I guess the numbers bear him out on that. His ERA and quality starts and all of it - that's all you can do is go out and keep your club in the game.

``For as tough a season as it's been at times, where the hell would be have been without him?''

Garza, who finishes the season with a 3.32 ERA and 20 quality starts, went 6-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 15 starts since the All-Star break - with the Cubs winning eight of his last nine, including his final six.

``It is what it is,'' said Garza, who was disappointed he fell two innings short of his goal of 200 (a result of a two-week DL stint two months into the season). ``I'm happy the way I ended the season. I'm not happy that we're not playing in October, but I'll just take what I did and try to keep rolling in the off-season and get ready for next season.

``I'm hoping to make it better. I'm going to try to improve - another year under my belt, a couple more lessons learned. For me, I think the sky's the limit and I'm just going to keep trying to build until I get there.''

It took a late rally for the Cubs and Garza to get his 10th win - putting him at .500 for the first time this season.

Alfonso Soriano's three-run homer in the eighth gave the Cubs a 4-1 lead - and gave Soriano 26 homers and 88 RBI (a personal best in his five years with the Cubs).

They added two more in the ninth on Blake DeWitt's pinch-hit single.

The Cubs enter the final game of the season Wednesday night with a chance to tie Pittsburgh for fourth in the division and more significantly - if symbolically - to finish off two straight winning months for the first time since 2008.

Cubs' kids shut out by San Diego ``varsity''

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It has come down to this: Pittsburgh's magic number for clinching fourth place ahead of the Cubs is just one after the Cubs lost a 2-0 game to the San Diego Padres late Monday night on ``Cubs Kids Day'' at Petco Park.

Casey Coleman matched hard-throwing Mat Latos nearly out for out through five innings until legging out a one-out triple in the top of the sixth that left him too winded to get through the bottom half of the inning.

And a Cubs lineup that included just one player who has completed a full season in the big leagues - cleanup man Carlos Pena - managed just two hits.

Besides Coleman's triple - which went for naught when next-batter Tony Campana inexplicably tried to bunt for a hit with the bases loaded - Starlin Castro singled leading off the seventh for his National League-leading 204th hit.

He, too, was stranded at third after stealing second and advancing to third on an infield grounder.

``I wanted to see these guys against the varsity a little bit, and they saw some very good pitching,'' Quade said of Latos (9-14) and veteran relievers Chad Qualls and Heath Bell (43rd save).

Notes and quotes from the night:

--The Cubs need to win their final two games Tuesday and Wednesday to pull off back-to-back winning months for the first time since 2008.

--Catcher Steve Clevenger, who played the whole game, and reliever Rafael Dolis, who pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings, each made his major league debut Monday night.

--Quade on Clevenger: ``I thought he did good. He received well. ... That's a kid that a few years ago, there were questions about his catching ability. I think he's erased a lot of those. He looked good to me and did a lot of things you want to see.''

--Quade said he expects Aramis Ramirez to start today after being sidelined since last Tuesday, when he aggravated a sore quad.

--Despite the loss, Coleman (3-9, 6-40) finished the season stronger than he started. He was 1-3, 4.59 in his last six starts - 1-2, 3.34, if you take out the bad one in Cincinnati Sept. 14.

--Coleman on his season: ``Just a learning experience. I picked up on something late in the year [working with pitching coach Mark Riggins] and had a decent last few starts. The one in Cincinnati was bad; I didn't pitch good, didn't handle the game good. But other than that I felt I made a lot of improvements with Riggy, who helped me out and Q being patient with me late in the year. It definitely gives me more confident going into spring training next year.''

Cubs' coming attractions

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As the Cubs get Wrigley Field decked out for their big October plans - namely, the Ferris Bueller movie night Oct. 1 - a few storylines might be worth watching over the final six games of the season, at St. Louis and at San Diego:


ONE-HIT WONDER: Starlin Castro, 21, needs one hit to become the youngest Cub in history - and sixth youngest in major-league history - to reach 200 hits in a season.

DEAD RED? The Cubs can eliminate the red-hot Cardinals from postseason contention with an unlikely sweep this weekend (depending what wild-card leader Atlanta does against Washington) - or at least deal the Cards a serious blow with two of three.

RETURN OF RAMI: Aramis Ramirez, whose long career with the Cubs appears done in a week, is day-to-day with a quad strain but hopes to return to the lineup for a few more at-bats as a Cub.

SEPEMBER SOLACE? If the Cubs manage a split over the final six games, they'll finish 13-12 in September for back-to-back winning months (16-13 August) for the first time since they had five straight winning months in 2008.

200-200 VISION: Friday's starter, Ryan Dempster, needs 9 1/3 innings in his final two starts to reach 200 innings for the fourth straight season, and a second straight complete game for Matt Garza against San Diego in his final start give the Cubs a slim shot at two 200-inning pitchers for the first time since Dempster and Ted Lilly did it in 2008.

NAME DROPPING: Could be the last chance as Cubs to see - and say goodbyes from afar to - 'Bow, 'Los, Lopy, Hilly, Sori, Rami, Colv, Monty, Q, Riggy, Zues and, uh, Ramon (or, in non-Q speak: John Grabow, Carlos Pena, Rodrigo Lopez, Koyie Hill, Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Tyler Colvin, Lou Montanez, Mike Quade, Mark Riggins, Ivan DeJesus and Ramon Ortiz).

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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