Rangers winning behind Matt Garza, but with room to improve

The pitching win, once the king of the mountain statistically and now scoffed at by many, including those dirty Sabermetricians, has tumbled as badly as a disgraced politician.

Though some argue that there seems to be some subjectivity to all the objective analysis, no traditional pitching statistic is as widely disregarded as the formerly tried-and-true W in an age when baseball statistics are combed through more rigorously than ever.

Nowhere was that more evident than at Safeco Field in 2010, when Felix Hernandez won a Cy Young Award with a 13-12 record.

In the office of the Texas Rangers’ manager, the win isn’t as diminished, but all Ron Washington wants his starting pitcher to do is give the team a chance to win.

So by that measure, newcomer Matt Garza has been a success.

He was back at work on Monday ahead of the Rangers’ series opener against Seattle, and he’s seeking more his next time out on the heels of a 5-2 loss Sunday.

“You’re never content. You always want to keep getting better every time out,” Garza said after working seven innings Sunday. “I felt comfortable. I felt like everything was back in sync. I had my slider again, and it was down.

“I had good stuff. I pitched my game and just ended up on the wrong side. You just walk away and take what’s good out of it.”

Garza admitted that he had been trying to do too much entering Sunday, but some self-evaluation between starts helped slow him down on the mound. He gave up home runs to Jordan Danks and Josh Phegley on hanging breaking balls, but otherwise felt he commanded his pitches.

The Rangers are 5-2 when the right-hander starts, scoring 37 runs in those wins, and he is 3-2. However, his ERA since being acquired on July 22 is 4.44.

He continues to give the Rangers innings, 482/3 in his seven starts since the five-player deal with the Chicago Cubs, but has given up at least four runs in his past five starts.

“My job is to try to go as deep as I can and try not to give up as many runs,” Garza said.

He has proven himself to be an upgrade over Justin Grimm, who was shipped to the Cubs, and minor league options like Josh Lindblom and long man Ross Wolf. But he has quality starts in only his first two games, left-handed batters are hitting .284 and slugging .484 against him, and he has been tagged for eight home runs.

The Rangers, though, have a .714 winning percentage in his games.

“He’s been good,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “He’s always keeping the team in the game, even though things don’t always go the way he wants them to. He’s been giving us six, seven and eight solid innings, and giving us a chance to be in the game.”

Garza isn’t the first hired gun the Rangers have added at the trade deadline in recent years. Cliff Lee and Ryan Dempster posted mixed results.

Lee was added in July 2010, and the Rangers went only 6-9 in his 15 starts, including losses in five straight, while the left-hander went only 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA.

Of course, his pitching carried them to their first World Series.

Last year, Ryan Dempster came in at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline and went 7-3, but with a 5.09 ERA. Right-handed hitters had a slash line of .327/.392/.598, and he beat only one team with a winning record.

His biggest flop came in the final game, when he couldn’t hold a 5-1 lead against Oakland and the A’s took the American League West title.

The book isn’t closed on Garza with 31 games remaining. He’s on schedule to make six more starts, and he was back at work Monday trying build on the positives he took out of his start a day earlier.

“He’s still a good pitcher,” Washington said. “A few games for us is not going to change our minds on why we got him. There are still more games to be played, and he’s got quite a few more starts. He’ll get on track.”

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