After losing their second consecutive game to the team with the worst record in the major leagues, manager Rick Renteria saw some motivation for the Cubs this weekend as they visit the team with the best record in the majors — the Brewers.
“It’s great for us,” Renteria said Thursday with emphasis after a listless 5-2 loss to the Diamondbacks. “Why? Because it’s a test. Every single day we play in the (National League) Central Division, it’s a test.”
And they know that former teammate Matt Garza will be motivated Friday when he takes the mound for the Brewers about nine months after the Cubs traded him to the Rangers.
“I’m sure Garza is going to be Garza,” Edwin Jackson said after giving up three runs on five hits in seven innings and retiring 17 of the final 18 batters he faced. “He hasn’t changed. It will be nice to start the series with a win. We’re going to battle. It should be a good matchup. (Carlos) Villanueva is against his old team (the Brewers) and Garza against his.”
But there are major differences. In addition to posting the majors’ best record at 16-6, the Brewers have won five of their last six with a pitching staff that hasn’t relied on Garza.
Meanwhile, the Cubs are trying to find ways to stay positive after missing a chance to win their first series of the season.
The prospect of facing Garza seemed to motivate shortstop Starlin Castro.
“We’re ready,” Castro said of his teammate of three seasons. “We think we got something for him.”
Castro went on to say Garza was a “normal pitcher, not a normal guy” before clarifying his comments.
“He was good with me,” he said. “We’ve talked. We never had problems.”
The biggest issue facing the Cubs is sustaining consistency as six of the first nine Diamondbacks reached base against Jackson, while the offense fell into a malaise against Mike Bolsinger, who earned his first major league victory with the help of a large-breaking curve.
The Cubs’ decision to employ a 13-man pitching staff leaves them a player short on the bench with outfielder Justin Ruggiano expected to miss up to one month because of a Grade 2 left hamstring strain.
“Bad timing,” Ruggiano said, one day after hitting a two-run homer but suffering the injury on a diving attempt to make a catch in right field. “My swing was starting to feel good. I can’t look back. I have to worry about getting back on the field.”