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Ninth-inning rally earns Garza first win with Cubs

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Ninth-inning rally earns Garza first win with Cubs

Saturday, April 30, 2011
Posted: 9:50 p.m. Updated: 11:15 p.m.

By Drew Silverman
CSNChicago.com Contributor

It was, in every sense, a night of firsts at Chase Field.

The first win for Matt Garza as a member of the Cubs. The first ejection for Mike Quade as Cubs skipper. The first 10-homer April for any Cubs player. And the first month of the season ending on a high note thanks to, of course, a first-year starter.

Darwin Barney delivered a two-out, go-ahead single in the ninth inning, helping Garza earn his first win of the season with a 5-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday night.

The decisive rally came compliments of some shaky defense by the Diamondbacks. Included in the ninth-inning sequence was a controversial call at second base that led to Quades early dismissal.

Following the ejection, two of Quade's youngest players came up with big hits. With runners on the corners and two down, Barney laced a single up the middle off J.J. Putz (0-1) to put the Cubs ahead 4-3. Starlin Castro followed with a base hit through the left side to make it a two-run game.

He knows what hes doing, Barney said of Quade. He can get us riled up any time he wants. It was a good time for it.

Carlos Marmol worked around a walk in the bottom of the ninth for his seventh save. The Cubs have now won two straight games after suffering an 11-2 defeat in the series opener.

Whoever coined the phrase 'Pitching is 90 percent of the game' either was really smart or was stating the obvious, Quade said. Its about setting the tone and keeping your club in the game. We feel like we have the guys in place in the rotation.

Making his sixth start with the Cubs, Garza (1-3) truly deserved to win the ballgame. He worked eight innings and struck out 10 his most since striking out 12 Pirates in his season debut. The right-hander allowed just six hits and two walks and finished his night in style, striking out the side in the eighth inning.

After posting a 6.27 ERA through his first three starts for the Cubs, Garza has a sparkling 1.80 ERA in his last three outings.

I dont have to win every game - as long as we win every game I throw, Garza said.

Garza did put the Cubs in a 1-0 hole in the first inning, when Justin Upton doubled with two outs and came around to score on a base hit by Stephen Drew.

However, the red-hot Alfonso Soriano answered in the Cubs next at-bat, belting a first-pitch fastball from Ian Kennedy off the batters eye in straightaway center for his third homer in the last two nights. The mammoth home run was Sorianos 10th of the season, setting a new team record for the month of April.

Soriano wasnt done, though. In the fourth, he delivered a two-out RBI single to put the visitors ahead 2-1. The base hit gave Soriano six RBIs in his last four games after he managed a total of two RBIs in his previous seven contests.

Aramis Ramirezs RBI double in the fifth gave the Cubs a 3-1 edge, but Garza gave the lead back in the sixth.

The Cubs righty walked Chris Young to open the inning. (Note: Young has walked three times in the last two games against the Cubs after walking a total of three times in his first 24 games.) Gerardo Parra followed with an RBI triple to make it 3-2. Garza recovered to strike out Upton, but Drew followed with a base hit to forge a 3-3 tie.

That's the way things stood until the decisive ninth inning, when Marlon Byrd led off with a single. Geovany Soto then bunted to Putz, whose wild throw nearly pulled Drew off the bag at second. Replays showed that the Arizona shortstop held the bag barely but Quade argued ferociously, to no avail of course.

Lets start with that, Quade said. Im very angry. And Im very wrong. (Umpire Dan Bellino) got it right. I was mad at everything and couldnt believe Drew kept his foot on the bag.

A walk to Tyler Colvin then put two runners on before Kosuke Fukudome hit a comebacker to Putz that should have been an inning-ending double play. Putz made a good throw to second base this time, but Drew had trouble getting the ball out of his glove and Fukudome beat the relay to first.

Stephen did everything he could and (first baseman Russell Branyan) had a good stretch, but he just beat it, Putz said. It was just me not making a good pitch with two strikes on a guy, getting ahead but just not being able to finish.

Barney and Castro followed with their base hits, Marmol did his thing in the ninth, and Garza had his first win for the Cubs.

Everyones battling, Barney said. This team doesnt give up. Were just trying to enjoy it, thrive on it, and keep winning.

Notes
Chicago first baseman Jeff Baker was injured running out a grounder in the eighth inning. He was replaced by Carlos Pena after suffering what the team called left shoulder soreness. Cubs pitchers have allowed 11 first-inning runs over their last four games. Chicago matched a season high by homering for a fifth straight game. With his 10 strikeouts, Garza set the franchise record for punchouts in the month of April with 51, surpassing Kerry Wood (46 in 2001). He also temporarily took over the NL lead in the category, passing Giants ace Tim Lincecum, who has 45 strikeouts on the season.

Up next

Casey Coleman (1-1, 7.42) squares off against Daniel Hudson (1-4, 5.64) in Sundays series finale. As was the case with Garza, Coleman will be facing the Diamondbacks for the first time in his career. Likewise, Hudson the former White Sox right-hander has never faced the Cubs before. First pitch is at 3:10 p.m. on WGN.

Box Score

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

MESA, Ariz. — You don’t need to spend long searching the highlight reels to figure out why Javy Baez goes by “El Mago.”

Spanish for “The Magician,” that moniker is a fitting one considering what Baez can do with his glove and his arm up the middle of the infield. The king of tags, Baez also dazzles with his throwing arm and his range. He looks like a Gold Glove kind of player when you watch him do these amazing things. And it’s no surprise that in his first media session of the spring, he was talking about winning that award.

“Just to play hard and see what I can do. Obviously, try to be healthy the whole year again. And try to get that Gold Glove that I want because a lot of people know me for my defense,” he said Friday at Cubs camp. “Just try to get a Gold Glove and stay healthy the whole year.”

Those high expectations — in this case, being the best defensive second baseman in the National League — fall in line with everything the rest of the team is saying about their own high expectations. It’s been “World Series or bust” from pretty much everyone over the past couple weeks in Mesa.

Baez might not be all the way there just yet. Joe Maddon talked earlier this week about his reminders that Baez needs to keep focusing on making the easy plays while staying a master of the magnificent.

“What I talked to him about was, when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely and permit your athleticism to play. Because when the play requires crazinesss, you’re there, you can do that,” Maddon said. “But this straight up ground ball three-hopper to shortstop, come get the ball, play it through and make an accurate throw in a routine manner. Apparently that stuck. Because he told me once he thought in those terms, it really did slow it down for him. And he did do a better job at doing that.”

But the biggest question for Cubs fans when it comes to Baez is when the offense will catch up to his defense. Baez hit a game-winning homer run in his first major league game and smacked 23 of them last season, good for fifth on a team full of power bats. But arguably just as famous as Baez’s defensive magic is his tendency to chase pitches outside of the strike zone. He had 144 strikeouts last season and reached base at a .317 clip. Seven Cubs — including notable struggling hitters Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — had higher on-base percentages in 2017.

Baez, for one, is staying focused on what he does best, saying he doesn’t really have any specific offensive goals for the upcoming season.

“I’m not worrying about too much about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to play defense, and just let the offense — see what happens.”

Maddon, unsurprisingly, talked much more about what Baez needs to do to become a better all-around player, and unsurprisingly that included being more selective at the plate.

“One of the best base runners in the game, one of the finest arms, most acrobatic, greatest range on defense, power. The biggest thing for me for him is to organize the strike zone,” Maddon said. “Once he does that, heads up. He’s at that point now, at-bat wise, if you want to get those 500, 600 plate appearances, part of that is to organize your zone, accept your walks, utilize the whole field, that kind of stuff. So that would be the level that I think’s the next level for him.”

Will Baez have a season’s worth of at-bats to get that done? The versatile Cubs roster includes a couple guys who split time between the infield and outfield in Zobrist and Ian Happ. Getting their more consistent bats in the lineup might mean sacrificing Baez’s defense on certain days. Baez, of course, also has the ability to slide over to shortstop to spell Addison Russell, like he did when Russell was on the disabled list last season.

Until Baez learns how to navigate that strike zone a bit better, it might make Maddon more likely to mix and match other options, rather than considering him an everyday lock like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

But like Russell, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras, Baez is one of the young players who despite key roles on a championship contender the last few years still have big league growth to come. And Maddon thinks that growth is right around the corner.

“I want to believe you’re going to see that this year,” Maddon said. “They’ve had enough major league at-bats now, they should start making some significant improvements that are easy to recognize. The biggest thing normally is pitch selection, I think that’s where it really shows up. When you have talented players like that, that are very strong, quick, all that other stuff, if they’re swinging at strikes and taking balls, they’re going to do really well. And so it’s no secret with Javy. It’s no secret with Addy. Addy’s been more swing mode as opposed to accepting his walks. That’s part of the maturation process with those two guys. Albert I thought did a great job the last month, two months of getting better against righties. I thought Jason looked really good in the cage today. And Willson’s Willson.

“The natural assumption is these guys have played enough major league at-bats that you should see something different this year in a positive way.”

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

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USA TODAY

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

Could 2018 be the year that the Cubs finally see a top pitching prospect debut with the team? 

Thursday, MLB.com released its list of the Cubs' 2018 Top 30 Prospects, a group that includes six pitchers in the Top 10. The list ranks right-hander Adbert Alzolay as the Cubs' No 1. prospect, projecting him to debut with the team this season. 

Alzolay, 22, went 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 22 starts between Single-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee last season. He also struck out 108 batters in 114 1/3 innings, using a repertoire that includes a fastball that tops out around 98 MPH (according to MLB.com).

Following Alzolay as the Cubs' No. 2 overall prospect is 19-year-old shortstop Aramis Ademan. Ademan hit .267 in just 68 games between Single-A Eugene and Single-A South Bend, though it should be noted that he has soared from No. 11 in MLB.com's 2017 ranks to his current No. 2 ranking. He is not projected to make his MLB debut until 2020, however.

Following Alzolay and Ademan on the list are five consecutive pitchers ranked 3-7, respectively. Oscar De La Cruz, No. 3 on the list, slides down from his 2017 ranking in which MLB.com listed him as the Cubs' top overall prospect. De La Cruz, 22, finished 2017 with a 3.34 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) between the Arizona League and Single-A Myrtle Beach.

De La Cruz is projected to make his MLB debut in 2019, while Jose Albertos (No. 4), Alex Lange (No. 5), Brendon Little (No. 6) and Thomas Hatch (No. 7) are projected to make their big league debuts in 2019 or 2020. All are right-handed (with the exception of Little) and starting pitchers.

Hatch (third round, 2016) and Lange (30th overall, 2017) and Little (27th overall, 2017) were all top draft picks by the Cubs in recent seasons.

Having numerous starting pitchers on the cusp of the big leagues represents a significant change of pace for the Cubs. 

Since Theo Epstein took over as team president in Oct. 2011, a plethora of top prospects have debuted and enjoyed success with the Cubs. Majority have been position players, though.

The likes of Albert Almora, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell all contributed to the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. Similarly, Ian Happ enjoyed a fair amount of success after making his MLB debut last season, hitting 24 home runs in just 115 games.

Ultimately, Alzolay would be the Cubs' first true top pitching prospect to make it to the big leagues in the Theo Epstein era. While him making it to the big leagues in 2018 is no guarantee, one would think a need for pitching will arise for the Cubs at some point, whether it be due to injury or simply for September roster expansion.

The Cubs have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years in terms of their top prospects succeeding in the MLB. If the trend continues, Alzolay should be a force to reckon with on the North Side for years to come.