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Cubs, Villanueva bested by ex-teammate Garza

April 26, 2014
INDIANA SPORTS PAGE



MILWAUKEE -- Matt Garza apparently learned more about the Cubs in his 2 1/2 seasons there than they did about him.

Garza scattered four hits over seven innings, while Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun had three hits apiece, and Lyle Overbay belted a solo homer to lead the Brewers to a 5-2 victory Friday over the Cubs.

Carlos Villanueva took the loss against his former team, and said he didn't think either pitcher had an edge.

"We know Garza, we had him," Villanueva said. "Everybody knows what everybody else features. There's video, and you have to take advantage of what you know. I've faced the Brewers a bunch of times and have done well against them. Sometimes it works to your advantage.

"There are some things that could've gone either way," he said. "They just went the other way on me. It's not an easy thing to go through. I want to help. I want to help and do the best I can here. If I'm not giving the boys the best chance to win, it's frustrating."

This was Garza's first career start against his former team, which he played for from 2011 to July 2013 when he was dealt to the Rangers. Three of the four players acquired in the deal -- Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez -- are on the Cubs' 25-man roster and the fourth, C.J. Edwards, is ranked fourth among the team's top prospects.

Who had the edge?

"You'd be surprised -- sometimes when you have a guy on the same team and you think you know exactly what they're about until you face them, and then you realize you really didn't have as good an idea as you thought you did," Chicago manager Rick Renteria said.

How frustrating was it? Chicago's Junior Lake, who had a tough night defensively, struck out to open the fifth and he broke his bat over his knee. It was one of seven K's for Garza.

"He bores in on righties and is able to mix his secondary pitches well and keeps the ball down and doesn't rattle very easily and goes right after hitters and knows what he's doing," Renteria said of Garza. "You have to tip your hat to him a little bit. We had a tough time getting a whole lot going against him. Today just wasn't our day."

Garza said there was no extra emotion playing against the Cubs.

"I've been on five different teams, man," Garza said. "If I had to get up for everybody, I'd be tired by midseason. It was just another ballgame, just another club I've got to give my team a chance to win [against]."

Villanueva came up through Milwaukee's system, and pitched for the team from 2006-10. He had a tough task against the red-hot Brewers, who collected 11 hits over five innings off the right-hander.

"This is a club right now that has a couple guys swinging the bat very well," Renteria said of Milwaukee, which leads the National League Central and the Majors with a 17-6 record. "They're very aggressive on the bases, and they're going to play the little game, and we need to make sure we're on top of everything and moving forward."

Villanueva didn't get much help defensively in the first. Gomez singled to lead off and stole second before scoring on Scooter Gennett's double to left that bounced past Lake.

"[Lake] knows, and he feels it was a ball he should've caught," Renteria said of Gennett's double. "He didn't, he missed it, and the rest is history, as they say."

Braun followed with an RBI single that Lake fielded and threw home over catcher Welington Castillo. Villanueva, backing up behind home plate, tried to get Braun at second but instead threw the ball into center field.

Lake apologized to Villanueva for the mistakes.

"He came up to me between innings and said 'my bad.' It's not 'my bad,'" Villanueva said. "I know he's not trying to make a mistake. You can see he cares, you see the frustration in him. If he didn't care, he'd be getting a different kind of chat from me.

"You can't be selfish, you can't throw your arms up in the air, you can't show anybody up," Villanueva said. "You have to show your teammates you're behind them. It doesn't matter what the uniform says on the back. We're here to support each other. Whoever is struggling, we have to rally around them."

And that kind of attitude will help the young Cubs.

"We have to have each other's backs," Villanueva said. "When somebody forgets, as long as I'm here, I'll keep reminding them."

Emilio Bonifacio hit an RBI single with two outs in the third, and the Cubs also tallied in the seventh on Ryan Sweeney's groundout.

Gomez singled to open the Milwaukee third and advanced one out later on Braun's single, although Braun was initially called out after a strong throw from shortstop Starlin Castro. After a 2 minute and 20 second review, he was ruled safe. One out later, Jonathan Lucroy hit an RBI single to go ahead, 3-1.

Overbay ended a 10-pitch at-bat against Villanueva in the fourth with his first home run, a laser to right, to open a 4-1 lead. Aramis Ramirez added a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

"These are things happen, and you've got to continue to make pitches," Villanueva said of the first inning. "It feels that when things aren't going well, they happen in bunches, and you have to bear down and make pitches. My last couple starts have been checked swings here, infield hits there. It happens, and I've seen other guys go through it.

"Obviously, my pitch count is getting high early," he said. "I wouldn't say I'm getting fatigued, but [my pitches] flatten out a little at the end. I've got to make my pitches."

And get a little help from his teammates.


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