While he struggled after returning from injury, Matt Garza appears to have found his groove.
Garza takes the mound opposite Peralta as the Chicago Cubs go for another rare win in Milwaukee in Thursday’s series finale.
After missing the second half of last season with an elbow injury, Garza (2-1, 4.25 ERA) didn’t debut until May 21 this year due to a left lat injury suffered during spring training. The right-hander compiled a 6.26 ERA over his first five starts but has since allowed one run in his last two spanning 15 innings.
“Ten months off is a long time,” he told the team’s official website. “No excuses for the first five (outings). It was just kind of finding my way again. Stuff’s getting more fluid and free and easy, and I’m not forcing a lot of stuff.”
Garza was at his best in Friday’s 3-1 win over Houston, allowing one run and four hits in a season-high eight-plus innings. He also struck out a season-best eight.
“His last couple starts, his fastball command has been off the charts, and that’s the key for anybody,” catcher Dioner Navarro said.
While Garza is a candidate to be traded before next month’s deadline, he’s focused on the task at hand.
“I’m looking forward to the next five days,” Garza said after Friday’s win. “That day I face Milwaukee in Milwaukee and I’ll be ready.”
Garza has gone 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last five starts against the Brewers (32-44), allowing two runs or fewer in four straight. Rickie Weeks is 2 for 17 with eight strikeouts in their matchups.
Peralta (5-8, 5.59), meanwhile, delivered his sharpest performance of the season Friday in a 2-0 win over Atlanta. The highly-touted 24-year-old struck out four and walked four over seven innings of two-hit ball, earning just his second victory in six weeks.
“This is the guy that we hope we see,” manager Ron Roenicke said of Peralta, who had posted a 9.26 ERA in losing his previous three home starts. “With having great stuff, if you’re throwing it over the plate, you’ve got a really good chance. He made some really big pitches.”
“The bottom line is if we win by one, great,” said closer Kevin Gregg who surrendered a homer to Juan Francisco before recording his 12th save in as many chances. “You don’t want to give up any runs but you want to win, that is the first and foremost thing as you go out there.”
Former Cubs slugger Aramis Ramirez recorded his 2,000th career hit with a solo homer in the second inning for Milwaukee. Ramirez, who ranks 15th in hits among active players, added an RBI single in the sixth.
Weeks is hitting .444 with five homers, 10 runs and nine RBIs in his last 15 contests.
Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez could return after missing the last two games due to a sprained left shoulder. He leads the team with 12 homers.