Matt Garza feeling pressure, frustrated

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Matt Garza finds himself in such a funk these days that even he doesn't know what the root of it is.

Is it the pressure of being traded to a new team in the middle of a playoff race?

There were high expectations when the Texas Rangers traded for what was called "the best starting pitcher on the trade market" on July 22. Texas gave up a boatload of prospects for him, thinking it was filling out the best rotation in baseball. Garza dominated the Yankees in his first start.

It's gone downhill from there. Garza has lost three of his last four starts after a 7-5 defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday afternoon.

He's 3-4 with a 4.46 ERA in 10 starts for the Rangers.

This is not what the Rangers had in mind.

Garza admitted it's frustrating that he's not helping more, knowing the Rangers paid a high price to bring him in as a ringer from the Chicago Cubs to help them win the American League West. He's lost twice and had a no-decision in a stretch during which the Rangers have lost nine of 12 games to fall 2 1/2 games behind the Oakland Athletics in the division.

"It's real frustrating," Garza said after Wednesday's start. "That's part of my problem. I may be putting too much pressure on myself, maybe. I don't know. I don't think so."

He's been an innings eater, but not this start, as he needed 89 pitches to throw four innings. He left with the Rangers trailing 3-0, even though National League MVP favorite Andrew McCutchen had the day off. Garza allowed two leadoff walks to score.

Fastball command got him as Garza, who prides himself on challenging hitters, matched a season high with four walks. He said he felt fine in the bullpen, then didn't have his command that culminated with a 36-pitch fourth inning.

"The adjustments came too late or they didn't come at all," Garza said.

He had a perfect first inning and worked around a double and a walk in the second inning. But a leadoff walk to No. 9 hitter Felix Pie -- a 10-pitch at-bat -- led to the Pirates' first run. Pie stole second on a strikeout of Jose Tabata and scored on a single by Neil Walker.

Another leadoff walk in the top of the fourth led to two more runs. Garza wasn't helped when shortstop Elvis Andrus booted a double play ball behind him. Still, Garza allowed the first four batters to reach base -- and seven out of nine going back to the third inning.

"I’ve never seen him walk that many guys," said manager Ron Washington, which he hasn't. This was Garza's game high for walks since coming to the Rangers.

"When he did decide to throw a pitch in the strike zone, they put it in play and found a hole," Washington said.

It was a carryover from Friday in Anaheim, when he gave up five hits in six batters in the fourth inning and turned a 3-0 Rangers lead into a 5-3 advantage for the Halos.

Washington did have Garza's back when asked what his assessment of the right-hander was during his 10 starts with the Rangers.

"This guy is a good pitcher," Washington said. "Things haven’t been going the way we would’ve liked for them to go, totally, but the bottom line is when the pitcher takes the mound it’s his job is to keep you in the ballgame. Although he hasn’t been winning ballgames at a rate you think he will, he’s still been keeping us in ballgames."

And keeping his team in games is a good thing. Winning games would be even better, and it's clear Garza is a competitor who wants to do better.

So if the pressure is getting to him, does he need to focus on relaxing and taking a calm mind to the mound the next time he starts?

"Just keeping going," Garza said. "I can't really do much. My location was off today and that was it."