If, for some reason, anyone was waffling as to whether Matt Garza is a fierce competitor, he delivered an intense postgame news conference Wednesday night to close his case.
“I hate losing,” Garza said. “It’s not fun. Who wants to come here and lose? I think everyone at this level has that edge. I’m just a little more showy about it than other people. That’s just my mentality.”
Garza showed that edge at various times during his Texas Rangers debut. He was steamed after throwing a ball away in the sixth inning, which led to the only blemish against him, and he didn’t seem thrilled to leave the game in the eighth inning.
Ultimately, though, he did what he was brought to Rangers Ballpark to do and what he loves to do more than anything else — win.
Garza allowed only an unearned run in 7 1/3 innings, and A.J. Pierzynski delivered two critical hits as the Rangers eked out a 3-1 victory against the New York Yankees.
David Murphy also homered to send Garza, acquired Monday from the Chicago Cubs, to his sixth consecutive win. The right-hander allowed five hits and struck out five while throwing 66 of his 95 pitches for strikes.
“He dealt,” said Pierzynski, the Rangers’ designated hitter Wednesday. “That’s all you can say. He threw the ball around the plate and multiple pitches around the plate. It seemed like he was in total command of the game the whole time.”
The first two batters Garza faced got hits, but he responded with strikeouts of Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay before getting Tarrant County resident Vernon Wells to ground out.
Pierzynski delivered a two-out RBI single off Andy Pettitte to give the Rangers only their 26th first-inning run of the season, and Garza made it stand the next four innings.
He retired nine straight and 15 of 16 before Brett Gardner started the sixth with a shot back to the mound. Garza knocked it down but threw wildly to first base, and Gardner raced all the way to third base.
Cano singled two batters later to even the score.
“That’s what I was a little [mad] about,” Garza said. “Cano’s a great hitter, and I thought I made a good pitch. He got just enough to get it over [second baseman Ian] Kinsler’s head.”
Pierzynski, though, put the Rangers back in front in their half of the sixth, lofting a solo homer off Pettitte with two outs. The pitch was down and away, but Pierzynski caught enough of it for a 2-1 lead.
Pierzynski has a .364 average in his career against Pettitte.
“I think it was a lob wedge because it went so high,” Pierzynski said. “Andy’s such a good pitcher. I’ve had a lot of at-bats against him. He’s just a competitor, so you have to try to match his intensity.”
Garza (7-1 overall) pitched around a two-out error on third baseman Adrian Beltre in the seventh and got pinch hitter Travis Hafner to start the eighth. With four more left-handed hitters coming, manager Ron Washington lifted Garza in favor of left-hander Neal Cotts.
Garza, with his glove covering his mouth, nodded his head as Washington spoke before surrendering the ball and heading to the dugout.
“I was just letting him know that he had done a good job to that point and I was going to go to the lefty,” Washington said. “He said, ‘OK.’”
Cotts retired four straight batters, and Joe Nathan surrendered a two-out single to Wells in the ninth before getting Eduardo Perez to end it and get Garza started with a win in his debut with the Rangers.
“I’m going to come out and do my job every night and go as long as I can and as deep as I can and give my team a chance to win,” Garza said. “That’s what I strive for every night.”