ARLINGTON, Texas — Centerfielder B.J. Upton said that when the Rays found out right-hander Matt Garza would be on the mound for the win-or-go-home Game 3 of the ALDS, they were happy.
"He's definitely the guy you want in that situation," Upton said.
Garza certainly delivered, helping Tampa Bay live another day with another strong postseason performance Saturday against the Rangers.
Garza allowed just two runs over six-plus innings, then the struggling Rays offense came alive in a 6-3 victory at Rangers Ballpark.
The 2008 ALCS MVP said he was "chomping at the bit" for the opportunity.
"He pitched phenomenal (Saturday night)," fellow starter James Shields said. "He's a gamer, he's definitely a clutch pitcher, he's proven that time and time again."
Despite all the pressure on the Rays, Garza said the key, for him, was not to do too much.
"Do what I had to do and not try to reach for something that's not there," he said.
"It's way easier said than done, especially for a guy like me," Garza said. "I'm very emotional, I let my emotions go. But (Saturday) I knew what was going on, I knew I had to settle down and calm down, so I took a lot of deep breaths, took a lot of times off the rubber. And we get to play (today)."
In the first two games of this division series, the Rays rotation — their stabilizing force all season — wasn't at its best. Ace David Price gave up five runs and nine hits in Game 1, and Shields, though he pitched better than his line (four hits, four earned runs) indicated, was pulled after just 4 1/3 innings. In each of the first two games, the Rangers built a sizable lead.
But on Saturday, Garza handcuffed the Rangers' potent offense for the second time this season. Though Garza wasn't dominating, striking out just four, he held Texas to just one earned run on five hits. The Rangers did go ahead 1-0 in the third inning after a leadoff double by Mitch Moreland. He advanced to third on a passed ball by rookie catcher John Jaso and scored on a groundout.
But the only pitch Garza said he would want back was the 3-and-2 fastball to Ian Kinsler, who hit a homer to lead off the seventh inning.
That would be Garza's last pitch, but by then he had set the tone, and the Rays' bats awoke.
Rays reliever Randy Choate said: "To have a guy who can shut that offense down, or hold them to two runs after six innings, is pretty impressive."