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Garza eager to quiet Fenway crowd

Garza eager to quiet Fenway crowd

ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Garza drew a fair amount of attention for his earplugs as well as his pitching in his American League Division Series start against the White Sox. If he can quiet the Fenway Park faithful in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, he'll give the Rays a chance to recapture the advantage in the series.

If he can, it wouldn't be the first time Garza has fared well at Fenway.

"Game 3 is going to be a pivotal game no matter what," Garza said after Saturday's extra-inning Rays win. "It's their first game on their home turf, so there's going to be a lot of momentum on their side. So my job is to come and shut that momentum down and hope we can set the tone [for the series]."

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Garza put in the earplugs his last time out for the first few innings to alleviate a head cold before taking them out, but he's expected to be fine for Monday afternoon. Once again, it'll be the Rays' road opener in a playoff series, and he'll be sure to get the full reception of a playoff atmosphere in Boston.

If he can pitch to his capabilities, he can help take the crowd out of it. He felt like he was close to that potential in his last start. That's what made the result so frustrating for him after five runs over six innings.

Much of the damage came in a three-run fourth after two hits and a walk loaded the bases with nobody out. A sac fly and a two-run double cleared the bases and pulled the White Sox ahead for good.

Garza has rebounded from that.

TALE OF THE TAPE
 Jon LesterMatt Garza
2008 regular season
Overall:33 GS, 16-6, 3.21 ERA, 66 BB, 152 K 30 GS, 11-9, 3.70 ERA, 61 BB, 128 K
Key stat:.727 win pct. (5th in AL) .245 OPP BA (9th in AL)
2008 postseason
Division Series:2 GS, 1-0, 0.00 ERA 1 GS, 0-1, 7.50 ERA
Career
Regular season:59 GS, 27-8, 3.81 ERA, 140 BB, 262 K54 GS, 19-22, 4.02 ERA, 114 BB, 233 K
Postseason:3 GS, 2-0, 0.77 ERA 1 GS, 0-1, 7.50 ERA
At Fenway Park
2008:17 GS, 11-1, 2.49 ERA 1 GS, 0-1, 8.44 ERA
Career:31 GS, 16-2, 3.30 ERA 3 GS 2-1, 4.50 ERA
Loves to face:Carl Crawford (3-for-14) Kevin Youkilis (1-for12)
Hates to face:Jason Bartlett (4-for-8) Jacoby Ellsbury (6-for-13)
Why he'll win:Undefeated vs. Rays. Best stuff on staff.

"I'm ready to go," he said. "I've been ready for this for a while. In Chicago, I felt like I had a good start, just lack of execution. Hopefully I have the same stuff, and if I don't, I'm just going to try to execute my pitches and that's all it comes down to."

Garza's manager was also upbeat about the pitches, if not the results.

"I thought his stuff was really good that last time out against Chicago," Rays skipper Joe Maddon said Saturday. "He had one bad inning. I just think as he gets a little more rest, his command and velocity have been pretty good. Again, I think he's grown a lot maturity-wise."

The outing bore some resemblance to his lone start at Fenway Park this season, when he took the loss on June 3 with five earned runs allowed over 5 1/3 innings. Much of that damage came in a four-run Red Sox sixth, when Boston loaded the bases without a base hit and eventually cleared them with a single, double and sacrifice fly.

In his previous tour of duty with the Twins, however, he had two wins in as many starts at Fenway. Both were five-inning performances. He also bounced back to pitch the Rays to two wins against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field later in the year, earning the win in one of them. One of those outings was seven innings without an earned run in a 3-1 victory July 1.

He's ready to take his game to Boston.

"It's going to be nuts," Garza said. "It's awesome. Just like Chicago was, it's going to be nuts. But I'll deal with it and do what I can."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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