ARLINGTON -- Matt Garza has a reputation for being a "big-game pitcher." He certainly approached Wednesday's start, his first with the Rangers, with that mentality.
"We're in the playoff hunt, aren't we?" Garza said.
Yes, the Rangers are in the playoff hunt. That's why they acquired Garza from the Cubs on Monday, and he made a pretty good impression on Wednesday night, pitching the Rangers to a 3-1 victory over the Yankees at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Garza, locked up in a pretty good pitchers' duel with Andy Pettitte, allowed just one unearned run in 7 1/3 innings. His own throwing error led to the unearned run. He allowed five singles, did not walk a batter and struck out five.
"He pounded the strike zone with a vengeance," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's always been a strike thrower, he's always kept the ball in play and he's always been able to strike out hitters when he needed to. He's a big-time pitcher, and that was a big-time performance."
When Garza was done after throwing 95 pitches -- including 66 strikes -- he walked off the mound to a standing ovation from a crowd of 42,360 fans. He has won a career-best six straight starts.
"I'm excited … I couldn't be happier playing where I am," Garza said. "I love Texas. I don't mind the heat. It's awesome. I've been traded three times, so I just go out there and do my job and make these guys proud they got me."
A.J. Pierzynski, starting at designated hitter, drove in both runs the Rangers scored off Pettitte. He hit an RBI single in the first and his 10th home run of the season in the sixth. It was only his second home run off a left-hander this season.
Heading into Thursday afternoon's series finale, the Rangers have won two of three from the Yankees behind the return of Yu Darvish and Alexi Ogando from the disabled list and Garza's arrival from Chicago. The Rangers remain three games behind the first-place Athletics in the American League West.
"Hopefully, guys come back and continue to stay healthy," Pierzynski said. "We're obviously not where we wanted to be, but we're in a position where we can get to where we want to get to. That's all you can really ask for as a player, is to have the opportunity to play meaningful games in September, and we're in that position right now. There's a long way to go, but if we continue to do what we're doing and we do it right, things will work out."
David Murphy added an eighth-inning home run to give the Rangers' bullpen a two-run cushion going into the ninth.
"We're as solid as can be on the pitching side," Murphy said. "From an offensive standpoint, we just need to stay focused and play like we're capable of. There's a lot of things this team can do offensively when we're focused and producing like we can. Obviously, we've had our ups and our downs this season, but I like what I've seen from this offense over the last few days."
Garza started the night by giving up singles to Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki in the first inning, but he came back to strike out Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay before retiring Vernon Wells on a grounder to third.
"It was a huge," catcher Geovany Soto said. "That inning could've gone a lot of different ways, but Garza stepped up and kept it there. That was pretty good to see, especially for the first outing with the Rangers. It's good for him to start off with the right foot."
Pierzynski's two-out RBI single in the bottom of the first gave Garza a 1-0 lead, and the right-hander carried that into the sixth inning. Garza completed the fifth having retired 15 of his last 16 batters.
Gardner started the sixth inning with an easy grounder back to Garza, but he fumbled it, fell to the ground while trying to retrieve it and then threw wildly to first base. The ball rolled into foul territory, and Gardner made it all the way to third base. He scored on a one-out single by Cano.
Garza got out of trouble by getting Overbay to hit into an inning-ending double play. He then pitched a scoreless seventh after Pierzynski put the Rangers back on top, then exited after retiring pinch-hitter Travis Hafner on a grounder to lead off the eighth.
"He's got good stuff, No. 1," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's got a very good fastball and a good slider. We hit some balls; we hit them at people. We had an opportunity in the first inning and weren't able to score. He kind of got on a roll after that. "
Neal Cotts retired the final two hitters in the eighth and remained in the game for the first two outs of the top of the ninth. After Cotts retired the left-handed-hitting Cano and Overbay, Joe Nathan entered and recorded the final out to secure the win and his 32nd save in 34 chances.
But the night belonged to the Rangers' starter.
"Being a hired gun, I just want to come out and do my job, come out and go as long as I can and deep as I can," Garza said. "I hate losing. It's not fun. Who wants to come here and lose? Nobody does. I'm just a little more showy about it. I hate losing.
"My main goal is to help this team get to October."
That's why Wednesday's was a big game for Garza.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.