Garza keeps it simple and dominates

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Matt Garza's plan in his biggest start since being traded to the Texas Rangers? Keep it simple.

Did he ever do that, for himself and his ballclub.

Garza dominated before a sellout crowd in Kansas City, never allowing more than one baserunner in any single inning as the Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 3-1 on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.

The Rangers traded for Garza in July because he had a reputation for being a big-game pitcher. Garza hasn't shown that prowess lately in losing three September starts.

But he was all about the moment on Saturday night. He took pressure off his defense and hitters by keeping his innings short and effective. And simple. This September start brought out the best in the Rangers' hired gun.

"What came out of him tonight was pride," manager Ron Washington said.

Texas kept pace with the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians in the American League wild-card race after both the Rays and Indians won on Saturday. The Rangers are a half-game behind Cleveland and a full game behind Tampa Bay with eight games left in the regular season.

Washington said Friday that he believed Garza had a big game in him -- even with him being on a four-game losing streak -- and the Texas skipper proved to be correct.

The Rangers scored early runs with Ian Kinsler starting the game with a triple and scoring on Elvis Andrus' groundout. They took a 3-0 lead in the third inning on Adrian Beltre's single off the second-base bag and A.J. Pierzynski's sacrifice fly.

For Garza, it was all about staying within himself, working the corners with his fastball and dropping in the curveball when needed. He won for the first time since Aug. 19 against the Houston Astros.

"It felt good to get back to being me," Garza said. "I had been trying to do too many things, so I kept it simple. That's who I am. I went out there with a game plan of attack and trust my stuff and let's go. There's no time to work on anything anymore."

Pierzynski said Garza might have been going through information overload in his recent starts. He was taking in all of the scouting reports on hitters and attacking that way, instead of his own way, which is working off his fastball.

"Matt is a simple guy," Pierzynski said. "If you give him too much, he can overthink some stuff."

Garza was at his best the few times he had to work with runners on base. He had only one walk, and that came with two outs in the fourth inning. He didn't blink, striking out Salvador Perez coming inside with the first two pitches to get ahead, then going down and away for the strikeout.

Garza gave up five hits, including a two-out triple that deflected off first baseman Mitch Moreland's glove in the sixth inning. Garza bounced right back by striking out Alcides Escobar using the same pattern of pitches he used against Perez.

"We executed the game, which is what we're supposed to do," said Garza, who didn't make any mechanical changes after allowing 14 runs in 15⅓ innings in his first three September starts.

"They were taking early swings," Garza said. "They weren't catching good wood on my fastball until the ninth inning. The balls they did hit were off-speed pitches. It was about going to work."

Washington gave Garza a chance for a shutout by bringing him back out to start the ninth inning. He had thrown only 93 pitches. Garza threw a 2-1 fastball to Eric Hosmer on one of the few times all night one of the Royals hit a ball hard. Hosmer hit a home run into the bullpen in left field.

Washington went to closer Joe Nathan, who retired all three batters he faced -- getting two strikeouts -- and wrapped up Garza's 10th win of the season.

Garza was asked after the game if this was the best start since he was traded to the Rangers on July 22.

He hopes not.

"The best start I hope I make in October," Garza said.