What you saw Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia -- in addition to a Cubs victory, rare enough this season -- was one of the better performances of Matt Garza's career.
The Cubs beat the Phillies 5-1 behind Garza, Rafael Dolis and Carlos Marmol, who combined for a two-hitter. And Garza allowed just two baserunners -- a leadoff single by Jimmy Rollins and a seventh-inning walk to Juan Pierre. Dolis had an uneventful, 10-pitch, 8-strike inning.
I use the term "behind" advisedly when it comes to Marmol. Seriously, something appears very, very wrong with him. He had to throw 34 pitches (only 18 for strikes), and issued three walks and an infield single, ruining the shutout. Finally, he got Shane Victorino on a ground ball to finish off a team the Cubs were leading by five runs at the start of the inning. It shouldn't be that much of a struggle.
Back to happier thoughts: The first batter of the game, Rollins, who singled, was forced by Pierre, who was then thrown out at second base by Welington Castillo after a ball bounced in at the plate. That's it; Garza threw 103 pitches, 68 for strikes, and struck out 10, the 10th time in his career he's had a double-digit K game.
I dunno. 103 pitches isn't that many for someone like Garza -- I might have been inclined, on a sunny, pleasant, not-hot afternoon in Philadelphia, to let him go at least one more inning, or even let him try to finish (presuming he didn't throw another baseball into the 10th row of the seats). But that's not how modern managers work.
The somewhat-makeshift lineup produced offensively. Joe Mather hit his first Cub home run; Bryan LaHair had a pair of doubles and a single. Starlin Castro drove in two runs, one on a groundout, one on a sacrifice fly. Tony Campana had two singles and stole another base, helping manufacture two of those runs.
Even with the two hits allowed, it was one of the lowest-hit games in recent team history. The last Cub two-hitter was Randy Wells' two-hit shutout of the Giants on August 29, 2011; the last Cub one-hitter was a combined Ted Lilly/Marmol effort on June 13, 2010 against the White Sox. That night, Lilly took a no-hitter into the ninth inning... and Pierre broke it up. Before that, Lilly, Angel Guzman, Aaron Heilman and Kevin Gregg (man, now those last two are names I'd like to forget) one-hit the Rockies at Wrigley Field on April 13, 2009. Lilly and Jeff Samardzija combined for a one-hitter against the Astros in Milwaukee on September 15, 2009, the day after Carlos Zambrano's no-hitter. It's the 30th game in the last 10 years in which Cubs pitchers have given up two hits or fewer.
Sometimes, this team looks really, really good. Unfortunately, Garza, who's starting to look like that elusive "ace" the Cubs have sought for years, can't pitch every day.
The Cubs are 10-17 against the Phillies in Philadelphia since Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004, and have lost every series there except one (a two-game set in 2010 that they split). A win tomorrow would be the Cubs' first series win in Philly since April 6-8, 2001. Chris Volstad will go against Vance Worley. We might not have that many things to cheer for this season -- a series win in Philadelphia would be nice.