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Garza endures rough first inning vs. former team

Lack of offensive support spells trouble despite righty's recovery

CHICAGO -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke talked before Saturday's game about how important it would be for Matt Garza to have a good first inning to establish a rhythm in his homecoming to Wrigley Field.

So much for that. The Cubs jumped on Garza with three first-inning runs, while the Brewers' offense put up a feeble attack against Edwin Jackson in a 3-0 loss on Saturday afternoon.

In the end, Garza pitched well enough to win, but the Crew's offense was shut out for the fourth time this season and second time by the Cubs. The Brewers managed just four hits, three coming in the first four innings and all of them singles. They put two runners on in an inning just once. Milwaukee has gone 5-5 in its last 10 games, scoring more than five runs just once in that span.

"I don't know if it's the last 16 innings, but we need to get some more runs, obviously," Roenicke said. "The pitchers have been throwing so well that they've been keeping us in games. It would be nice to come out and get a bunch of runs for them. We'll certainly do better than what we've been doing."

Garza's early struggles, meanwhile, was just more of the same. He's now allowed 10 first-inning earned runs in nine starts this year.

Emilio Bonifacio led off with a perfect bunt single and moved to second on Chris Coghlan's sacrifice. Two-out doubles by Starlin Castro -- who nearly got it into the basket for a home run -- and Welington Castillo made it 3-0, Cubs. The silver lining was that Garza threw just 19 pitches in the inning.

"First inning was a hiccup," Garza said. "It's kind of been what it's been like all year. … I'm just going to keep going, keep grinding, keep working out and keep going. It's going to come together sooner or later."

"What we were trying to do was just get on base," said Cubs manager Rick Renteria. "We were using the bunt early to try to do it. It just worked out. That's the bottom line. The run-producing hits ended up coming with two outs. We had some good at-bats. It was only three runs, and [Jackson] did the rest. He did a great job. You have to tip your hat to him."

Garza allowed just two baserunners after the first, and he retired 12 in a row until Anthony Rizzo's leadoff single in the sixth. He set down 18 of the final 20 he faced over seven innings, allowing four hits with seven strikeouts and one walk. Garza said innings two through seven were the best he's felt all season.

"He came out with good stuff today," Roenicke said of Garza. "He got behind to Castro and left a 2-0 fastball up and over the plate, and then the slider to Castillo, he tried to come in and went 1-0 and then he left a slider on the good part of the plate. But beside that, he really threw the ball well."

Garza's ability to settle in after the first inning gave his team a chance to win, but Jackson was too good with seven scoreless innings. The Brewers' best chance to score came in the first inning, when Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy had back-to-back singles with two outs.

Jackson then struck out Mark Reynolds looking for one of his season-high 11 strikeouts, and Milwaukee struck out 14 times overall for the second consecutive game. Roenicke didn't sound concerned about the high number of swings and misses by his club when asked about it before Saturday's game, but it seems to be contributing to the recent offensive slide.

"Yeah, it's like a snowball," Reynolds said. "Once it starts rolling one way, you get hot in a hurry. If it starts rolling the other way, it kind of spills over to the whole team. I think yesterday off [Jeff] Samardzija, we got a couple early hits, a couple early runs and put some good at-bats together, and today was kind of the opposite. That's baseball, man -- one day you're good, next day you're scuffling."

A lot of the credit goes to Jackson, who used a mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider to keep Brewers hitters off-balance all day. It marked his seventh career double-digit strikeout game.

"[Jackson] had every pitch working for him. He was working hard," Reynolds said. "He didn't really leave much over the plate for us to hit. It was just one of those games where we ran into a good pitcher who pitched a good game."

For Garza, the frustration continues to mount. He lowered his ERA to 4.83 on Saturday, but a 2-3 start with a 4.98 ERA and 1.45 WHIP isn't what he had in mind when he signed a four-year, $50 million contract to headline Milwaukee's starting rotation.

"Of course I'm frustrated, man," Garza said. "… It's just, keep grinding and keep getting ready every five days. That's about it. That's about all I can do."

Joe Popely is an associate reporter for
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