"You can tell he was different tonight," Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "Any time you go against a former team, you put a little extra on it. We all know he was. There's nothing wrong with that."
Garza worked seven quality innings for a 5-2 win over the Cubs at Miller Park, helped by 12 hits from an offense that is waking up at home. Lyle Overbay delivered his first Brewers home run since 2005, Carlos Gomez scored twice and five different players, including Ramirez, drove in a run apiece.
"It's a lot of fun when you win," said Garza, comparing his current experience to his 2 1/2 seasons with the Cubs. "When you go through three years of constantly hoping, you kind of run out of hope. Come to a team like this, where every day we're going out to win -- not hoping to win -- it's a lot different. A lot different emotion, a lot better emotion. It's confidence.
"That's what we're playing with a lot of right now. It's just great to be here right now, and I'm happy where I'm at, and I love going out there and giving my team a shot to win every five days."
The 17-6 Brewers still own baseball's best record, and with the calendar moving to May next week, it's getting a little late to be characterizing what is happening in Milwaukee as a fast start.
"The first week, 10 days of the season you can say 'fast start,'" said Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez, who struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth for his 10th save in as many chances. "But we're almost at the end of the month. That tells you something."
"We can be better offensively, but we have real good pitching," Ramirez said. "That's why we are where we are right now."
That pitching culminated on Friday with Rodriguez, who tied Robb Nen for 18th all-time with 314 career saves, and tied a franchise record set by Francisco Cordero in 2007 with his 10th save in the first month of a season. Rodriguez has yet to allow a run in 13 appearances in '14.
Working backward, there was left-hander Zach Duke, who struck out the side in the eighth inning for his eighth consecutive scoreless appearance, helping to drive the Brewers' bullpen ERA down to 2.35.
Before that was Garza, who held his former teammates to two runs on four hits over seven innings, with a walk and seven strikeouts. It was the Brewers' 18th quality start in 23 games this season, and lowered Milwaukee starters' ERA to 2.57.
All told, the Brewers' team ERA is 2.50.
"I don't know exactly what are numbers are out there, but I think it's pretty impressive," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "They're good. They're confident right now. They can do this. Whether the entire bullpen can maintain these numbers through an entire season, I don't know. But they're good."
Garza's outing was his best since his Brewers debut on April 2, when he and Atlanta's Aaron Harang worked dueling no-hitters for seven innings. Garza lost that battle, 1-0, then saw the Brewers shut out again in his other Miller Park start, this time 4-0 against Lance Lynn and the Cardinals. In those two home games, the Brewers were held to five hits.
Friday's run support was overdue.
After Garza set down three Cubs hitters in order in the top of the first inning, Gomez singled against Cubs starter Carlos Villanueva, stole second base and scored when second baseman Scooter Gennett hit a ball that somehow eluded Chicago left fielder Junior Lake for an RBI double. Gennett promptly scored when Ryan Braun ripped a single to Lake in left.
"It was good to finally score some runs for [Garza]," Gennett said. "Especially when a guy battles like that for seven strong innings, you want to throw up some runs for him. The thing about him is he's a competitor. He's not scared of anybody."
Milwaukee added single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings against Villanueva, who was charged with five runs on 11 hits in five innings of work. He's allowed 22 earned runs and 40 hits in 19 innings this season.
Villanueva pitched for the Brewers for parts of five seasons from 2006-10, but dismissed the notion that his former team has a book on him.
"It's just a matter of making pitches," Villanueva said. "We know Garza, we had him. Everybody knows what everybody else features. There's video, and you have to take advantage of what you know. I've faced the Brewers a bunch of times and have done well against them. Sometimes it works to your advantage. There are some things that could've gone either way. They just went the other way on me."
Overbay's home run leading off the fourth inning was his first in a Brewers uniform since Sept. 20, 2005, against the Cubs, during his first stint in Milwaukee. Nomar Garciaparra was in the starting lineup that night for the Cubs, and Brady Clark and Carlos Lee for the Brewers.
Jonathan Lucroy drove in the Brewers' other run, with all five coming before the end of the fifth inning.
For the first time, Garza was able to savor a personal victory. But again, it meant nothing more that it came against the Cubs.
"I've been on five different teams, man," he said. "If I had to get up for everybody, I'd be tired by midseason. It was just another ballgame, just another club I've got to give my team a chance to win [against]."