Matt Garza was charged with a difficult task on Tuesday night.
Garza was given the ball for the Tampa Bay Rays against one of the best starting pitchers in the league, Roy Halladay, looking to help his team find a cure for its road woes against the Toronto Blue Jays.
It is safe to say that he was up for the challenge.
The young right-hander pitched his first career complete game shutout, scattering five hits in nine innings to lead the Rays to a 3-0 win. He even outlasted Halladay, the majors’ leader in complete games who suffered the loss after giving up all three runs in eight innings. He struck out five while walking only one, relying on the Rays’ excellent defense, which turned three double plays behind him.
Garza, acquired in the Delmon Young deal this offseason, has been a tremendous addition to the Tampa Bay pitching staff, emerging as a legitimate number three starter in this league. With the victory, he is now 9-6 with a 3.56 ERA and 85-to-39 K/W ratio. The 26-year-old picked up a win his last outing, on July 19, as well, fittingly against Toronto. He pitched 7.2 shutout innings of two-hit ball that night, again shutting down one of the majors’ worst offensive teams.
As much as the Rays have struggled to score runs at times on their own, it is amazing how well they have done against Halladay, beating him on three different occasions. The Toronto ace came into the game ranked first in the league with seven complete games and 163.1 innings pitched, in addition to having posted the third-lowest ERA (2.81) in the AL. The throwback right-hander, among the only pitchers left out there who consistently lasts more than six innings in nearly every start, also lost to Tampa Bay on July 19, when the Rays roughed him up for five earned runs.
Eric Hinske led the way offensively, hitting his 15th home run of the year off of Halladay in the third inning to give his team a 1-0 lead. Hinske, the AL Rookie of the Year in Toronto back in 2002, continued to hear the boos from the Toronto crowd before being lifted for defensive replacement Gabe Gross.
Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford, who has struggled to get it going this year, each hit triples. Crawford, who was recently moved to the three spot in the Rays’ lineup due to his poor on-base percentage, finished 2-for-4 with a run scored. The Rays will need him to pick it up the rest of the way, as he currently has the second-lowest OPS total among all qualifying players at the left field position in the majors.
Longoria drove in the other two runs for Tampa Bay, adding insurance with his two-run triple in the eighth inning. The current favorite for Rookie of the Year, he now has 63 RBIs this season.
Garza was the story, though, as he continues to make fans forget about Young. Along with Scott Kazmir and James Shields, many with the industry feel, he helps round out one of the strongest pitching trios in the game. He certainly showed why on this night.
Update: Tampa Bay is now 62-44, two games up in the East, with a Boston Red Sox loss. Boston dropped its second consecutive game to the Los Angeles Angels, 6-2. The Angels acquired Mark Teixeira from the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, adding the impact bat that they need to truly make a run at a title.
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