MIAMI — The research and number-crunching will carry into today to properly context just how bad Matt Garza was Friday night.
But all you really have to know is this: He threw 71 pitches and got four outs.
That's right — 71 pitches … and four outs.
Or, another way — 10 of the 14 batters he faced reached base (seven hits, three walks) and seven scored.
That the Rays only lost to the Marlins 7-4 — thanks to a strong relief effort by Andy Sonnanstine — and hung onto a piece of first place in the AL East at 41-26 as the Yankees also lost, was incidental to the historic horridness Garza delivered in his 100th career start.
"This is probably one of the lowest points of my career — it can't get any lower," Garza said. "You know it's not your best, so it's hard to eat and hard to swallow, and it will be hard to sleep."
By one measure, it was among the three worst starts over at least the last 50 years of major-league play. Only two other times since 1952, according to Baseball-reference.com, had a starter gotten four or fewer outs and thrown 70 or more pitches. (Appropriately, one was a former Ray, Victor Zambrano, in a May 15, 2004, horror show against Cleveland.)
Garza earned another distinction as the 49 (yes, 49) pitches he threw in the first inning were the second most thrown this year by any pitcher in any inning, trailing the 54 Pittsburgh's Paul Maholm's threw May 9 vs. St. Louis.
"I've never seen him like that," manager Joe Maddon said. "There were no physical issues. He could not find where the ball was going. He just couldn't."
What made it worse for the Rays is that it went so bad after they started out so well, taking a 2-0 lead in the first.
Garza got two of the first four Marlins out, but his problem in keeping the ball down quickly emerged. He walked the next two, loading the bases and forcing in a run, then he gave up a grand slam for the first homer of rookie Mike Stanton's career.
Maddon gave Garza another inning to get things right, but it wasn't much better as he started with three straight hits (including a second double by East Lake High's Chris Coghlan, whose season assault on the Rays is at 8-for-16 and counting) and two more runs.
"They kept hitting everything I threw," Garza said.
The Rays managed to keep the game interesting, thanks primarily to the 42/3 shutout innings by Sonnanstine. "A fabulous job," Maddon said.
But when they cut the margin to 7-4 in the seventh with a chance for more, B.J. Upton made a bad move and got caught trying to steal third with one out and Evan Longoria at the plate. Upton said he had a good jump but "just stopped" for a split second when one of the infielders called out to pitcher Scott Strickland. "He kind of locked me up and stopped my momentum," Upton said. "I felt like I was too far out there, so I just kept going. I was kind of in no-man's land. I kind of felt like I was dead either way."
Even as much as Maddon encourages aggressiveness, he acknowledged, in this case, Upton was wrong: "He made a mistake."
Upton said as much: "That just can't happen."
But as the Rays try to break a nearly monthlong funk, those are the kind of things that keep happening.