Cubs' Garza makes 2013 debut at Pittsburgh

Chicago righty Matt Garza makes his season debut on Tuesday when the Cubs begin a three-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

Garza hasn't pitched since shoulder issues cut his 2012 campaign short late in July and eventually required surgery.

"It was tough, but I had my family and my wife and kids the whole time to help me through it," Garza said. "It was a grind, mentally. Physically, I could do anything, but the mental part was the tough part. It was one setback after another, and it was, 'Keep going, keep going, keep going.' I'm just happy I'm here at the end of it and can't wait 'til Tuesday."

Garza, who is 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA in three starts versus the Pirates, was 5-7 last season before the injury and was pitching to a 3.91 ERA.

"This actually means something, and I can't wait," said Garza who will be limited to 85-90 pitches. "It's been 10 months in the making, so I'm excited to get back out there."

Chicago enters this series having won five of eight, but lost a series over the weekend to the New York Mets, as it dropped Sunday's rubber match, 4-3.

Travis Wood left with the lead and helped his own cause with a two-run home run, while Ryan Sweeney added a solo shot in the loss for the Cubs, who were trying to nail down their first winning homestand since July 13-19 of last season.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, won for the fifth time in six tries on Sunday, as Jeff Locke fired seven shutout innings, while Pedro Alvarez's solo homer provided the only scoring in the Pirates' 1-0 victory over the Houston Astros.

Locke (4-1) yielded just three hits and two walks while striking out four to record his fourth straight winning decision. The young lefty hasn't lost in eight starts since dropping his season debut at the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 7.

"He didn't give up anything," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Locke. "He was able to put a foot down, get balls on the ground when we needed them."

Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli tossed a scoreless inning each to finish off the shutout, with Grilli notching his MLB-leading 17th save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Pittsburgh's 26-18 start to the season is the franchise's best since 1991, when it went 29-15 through the first 44 games.

Getting the call for the Pirates on Tuesday will be lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who has won his last two starts. Rodriguez upped his record to 4-2 on Wednesday against Milwaukee, as he gave up just one run and six hits in seven innings to lower his ERA to 3.25.

Rodriguez, who is 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA at home this season, beat the Cubs in his first start of the year and is 8-7 versus them with a 3.56 ERA in 23 starts.

Chicago took two of three from the Pirates earlier in the year.