CHICAGO — For Rays right-hander Matt Garza, Sunday's outing was simply "frustrating."
But not for the reasons you may think.
It wasn't the loud sellout crowd of 40,142, which looked like a sea of white waving its towels; Garza did wear earplugs but said they were due to a head cold he's battling.
It wasn't even what he called a "huge hole" at his landing spot on the mound, a problem he said only became troublesome when he warmed up in the fifth; that's when he asked the grounds crew to fix it twice, filling it in with some rubber and then clay.
What bothered Garza the most was that, in arguably the biggest start of his career, he felt he had good enough stuff to help the Rays complete the sweep over the White Sox but didn't control his pitches well enough. That led to a six-inning effort in which he gave up five runs and four walks.
"I let my team down," Garza said. "I had good enough stuff to put us over the top. Today was my fault. They gave me the three runs I needed and I failed. That's my job. That's a starting pitcher's job, to get your team deep and give up as little runs as possible. And I didn't do that today."
The first miscue came in the third, when White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski hit a two-out single, which allowed Dewayne Wise to score from second. Garza "hung me a slider, curveball, whatever it was," Pierzynski said. "And I hit it up the middle."
The White Sox did their most damage, however, in a three-run fourth. Garza said he tried to go in but left a fastball over the plate for Jim Thome's leadoff double. And when Wise slapped a two-run double down the leftfield line just over third baseman Evan Longoria's head, he "hit a good pitch," Garza said.
"He really doesn't go out there too often," Garza said. "And I threw a two-seamer away. … If he grounds that ball out, it's a 3-3 ballgame."
Pierzynski said the White Sox made an adjustment: Noticing Garza threw mostly fastballs the first time through the lineup, they just keyed on that pitch.
As for the mound maintenance, Garza said he had noticed a hole on the front of the mound early in the game, but it was "still usable." When he warmed up in the fifth, it was bigger, which led him to ask the umpire to have the grounds crew patch it up two different times "so I didn't get hurt." The move — and delay — drew boos from the crowd.
Despite the loss, manager Joe Maddon had good reviews on Garza's stuff.
"Overall I thought he threw the ball very well; he was on his A game," Maddon said. "He gave us a chance to win."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.