Garza shuts out Rangers in opener
Starter throws two-hitter, backed by four Rays homers
ARLINGTON -- After the Rays had pummeled a team used to doing the pummeling, the focus of Friday night's game turned to the question of whether Matt Garza could go the distance and hang a no-hitter on the Rangers.
Garza rolled out the electric stuff of which no-hitters are made -- he simply lacked the other component to the equation: luck.
So the Rays' talented 24-year-old right-hander had to settle for a two-hit shutout of the Rangers in a 7-0 Rays win in front of a crowd of 20,223 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
By winning, the Rays moved to 74-47 on the season and to 6-2 on their current 10-game, three-stop road trip, improving their season road record to just two games under .500 on the road. The win, combined with the Red Sox's rainout against the Blue Jays, increased the Rays' lead in the American League East to 3 1/2 games.
Garza's luck took an adverse turn in the sixth when B.J. Upton failed to hustle after hitting a grounder to shortstop with one out. The Rangers completed the double play and Upton, who had been benched earlier this season for a lack of hustle, was removed from the game in favor of Justin Ruggiano.
Garza continued to overpower the Rangers in the bottom half of the sixth, retiring Gerald Laird on a groundout before striking out Ramon Vazquez for the second out. Ian Kinsler then hit a flare to center field that quickly fanned a controversy. Ruggiano ran a long way to try to make the catch before leaving his feet at the last instant. When he did not come up with the ball, all eyes turned to the official scorekeeper, John Mocek, who ruled the play a base hit.
Mocek said in his judgment "it wasn't a routine play, [Ruggiano] came in a long way."
"You can't make a decision based on it being a no-hitter, first inning, or whatever," he said. "It was not an ordinary effort."
Rays manager Joe Maddon took exception to the ruling and even called the official scorer, which he said he has never done.
"One hundred times out of 100 times, a Major League center fielder makes that play and when he doesn't, it's an error," Maddon said.
Josh Hamilton drilled a leadoff single up the middle to start the seventh, thereby making the official scorer's decision less controversial, but did the call affect Garza?
Garza insisted the call did not upset him, even though he slammed down the rosin bag afterward.
"I wasn't upset about that," Garza said. "I was just upset where I got that pitch. It was a 1-2 count and I wanted to bury that slider. And I hung it. I wasn't mad about that hit. I was upset that I hung that slider when I should have buried it. I just stepped off and said, 'I've got two outs and I've got to get this guy.'"
But what did he think about the call?
"It's a hit," Garza said. "Ruggiano had to charge it out in front, it hit his palm, and it's a hit, that's all it is."
In addition to posting his second career shutout, Garza earned his 10th win of the season to become the third Rays pitcher to reach double-digit wins this season, joining Andy Sonnanstine and James Shields.
Garza said "it's fun, it's a blast" pitching when he has stuff like he had on Friday night and Texas hitters were keenly aware of what they were trying to hit.
"When somebody has stuff like that, it's tough," Marlon Byrd said. "I think he threw about seven or eight pitches that were mistakes. When a guy throws like that, you just hope your guy can throw up zeroes, too."
And Garza clearly benefitted from an offense fueled by a home run parade that included home runs by Willy Aybar, Carlos Pena, Eric Hinske and Gabe Gross to stake the Rays to a 5-0 lead before Garza took the mound in the fifth.
"It's easy to pitch when you have a five-run cushion after the fourth," Garza said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.