June 01, 2014

MILWAUKEE -- As his team closes in on its first NL Central crown since 2008, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon plans to give many of his every day plays as much time off as necessary to gear up what many hope to be a lengthy postseason run.

But with a comfortable lead in the division -- even after a 12-5 drubbing Tuesday night -- at the hands of the rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers -- is expecting the same kind of focus and mindset that put the Cubs in this position to begin with.

"I don't care what our record is. I expect our guys to play the game right," Maddon said. "Our guys, from Spring Training right to now, man, I've been really pleased and impressed with our ability to come ready to play every night."

Mike Montgomery will try to get Chicago back on track Wednesday when the Cubs wrap-up a three-game series in Milwaukee. It'll be the fourth start for Montgomery since he was acquired from the Mariners on July 23.

He's yet to earn a decision as a starter, allowing eight runs (seven earned) in 13 1/3 innings in those contests. Overall, Montgomery is 1-1 with a 4.09 ERA in 10 appearances with the Cubs.

"We think he can be very, very helpful to us," Maddon said of Montgomery's role down the stretch. "It's an easy delivery. He's pitching with confidence. I can see him settling in. And he knows he belongs here and can do this and be good."

Matt Garza takes the mound for his 16th start of the season hoping to carry over the momentum from his last outing, when he pitched a seven-inning gem against the Cardinals in Milwaukee.

Garza held St. Louis to a run on three hits and walked a pair while striking out eight over seven innings of work.

"He's got a little string going right now that he's really making pitches," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's doing a good job moving the ball in and out and really using his curveball in good spots. His slider has been good and he's been getting some strikeouts with his slider."

Not normally a strikeout pitcher, Garza has fanned 17 over his last two outings, spanning 12 1/2 innings.

"I've just been trying to get back to normal where I'm comfortable being," Garza said. "I've said it time and time again, it's just progression. I finally feel back to where I should be. I'm not fighting my body anymore, I'm not fighting my pitches. I'm actually getting to be able to play pain-free and it's exciting for me.

"It's been three, four years since I have been like this. It's been exciting. I found my slider, my breaking stuff, I'm just going to run with it now. I'm just going to keep the same mentality and keep running with it. Just embrace the moment and go out there and have some fun."

Garza has made one start against the Cubs this season, allowing three runs in five innings of a 4-0 loss in the first game of an Aug. 16 double-header at Wrigley Field.

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