Cubs

Cubs' offense will be key vs. Brewers

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Cubs' offense will be key vs. Brewers

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: 10:40 a.m.
Associated Press

With the back of their starting rotation in flux due to injuries, the Chicago Cubs will need players like Jeff Baker to step up offensively.

The second baseman will likely get another chance to do so Saturday night when the Cubs continue their series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.

Chicago (4-3) placed pitchers Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner on the 15-day disabled list prior to Friday's 7-4 series-opening win. Manager Mike Quade will use call-ups Casey Coleman and James Russell as part of a patchwork staff in the interim.

Front-line starter Carlos Zambrano extended his mastery of the Brewers at Miller Park, but it was Baker who delivered the offense, going 4 for 5 with a three-run homer and four RBIs. He improved to 6 for 11 against left-handers this year, a promising sign with the Brewers scheduled to start Chris Narveson (0-0, 0.00 ERA) on Saturday.

"Baker? Jiminy Christmas!," Quade said. "Just unbelievable swinging the bat."

Baker is 7 for 15 overall this season and a .308 lifetime hitter against lefties. He is batting .420 (29 for 69) with two homers in 25 career games versus Milwaukee.

"It's just about getting good pitches to hit whether it's right-handed or left-handed and not trying to do too much and let the ball travel a bit," he told the Cubs' official website. "I've been able to do that against lefties, and I'm trying to do that against righties as well."

Narveson had little to show for a solid season debut Monday, scattering three hits and three walks in six scoreless innings before his bullpen squandered a lead in a 2-1 loss to Atlanta in Milwaukee's home opener. He has fared well versus the Cubs, going 3-0 in two starts and nine overall appearances against them.

Matt Garza (0-0, 3.86) takes the mound for Chicago after a quirky debut for the team Sunday. He allowed three runs and 12 hits - all singles - and struck out 12 in seven innings, missing out on a victory when Pittsburgh scored two in the ninth for a 5-4 victory.

"I kept attacking, I kept attacking," Garza said. "Even though those 12 singles were annoying, I kept telling myself, 'Get to the next pitch, get to the next pitch and keep attacking.'"

This will be his first start against Milwaukee (3-5).

Prince Fielder, who hit his 100th career home run for the Brewers in Friday's loss, is 5 for 10 with two walks and five RBIs in his last three games.

Milwaukee outfielder Nyjer Morgan continued to make the most of his playing time with Corey Hart out due to injury, going 2 for 3. Acquired from the Washington Nationals just before the start of the season, he is 8 for 16 with a double and a triple.

"As long as he keeps doing well and Corey is not back here, then he will be out there quite a bit," manager Ron Roenicke told the Brewers' official website. "I'm not going to say he's everyday, but he will be out there quite a bit."

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

Willson Contreras, Jon Lester carry Cubs to eventful win in the first game of the series with Atlanta

The Cubs and Braves got through roughly one inning of Stranger Things Night at Wrigley Field before Willson Contreras made the evening his own. 

The catcher went 2-4 with three RBI, and provided the most notable moment from the game: a 2nd inning solo homer that caused both benches to clear. Contreras had taken issue with a few of the called strikes earlier in the at-bat, and said something to home plate umpire John Tumpane about it. Contreras continued to make his feelings known as he left the box, drawing the ire of Braves catcher Tyler Flowers.

“To be honest, those pitches weren’t even close to the strike zone,” he said. “[Flowers] got mad because I was talking to the umpire about that, and he jumped into the conversation. 

Contreras then proceeded to shout in the direction of Atlanta’s dugout while rounding first base, and the two catchers exchanged more words as he crossed home plate. The benches quickly emptied, and after a few moments of posturing, returned to their dugouts. 

“It was a lot of emotions together,” he said after the game. “I was having a conversation with the umpire, and it ended up with [Flowers], so that’s all I can say. I just basically told him to do his job and I’ll do mine. I don’t know why he got pissed off because that’s all I said - you do your job and i’ll do mine.”

“I was kind of amused by the whole thing,” Joe Maddon added. “I don’t really know Mr. Flowers - we had a nice conversation, walked away, and it was over. It really wasn’t worth more than what happened.

The confrontation was just one of a few testy moments between these two teams. In the top of the 2nd inning, Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson was caught on cameras shushing the Cubs dugout: 

Two innings later, it was Javy Baez who returned serve by blowing the Braves a kiss after stealing second on Flowers: 

“It’s fun because they’re good,” Maddon said. “And we’re good - that’s the fun part. Monday night, at 7:05, to have that kind of attitude and atmosphere is outstanding. That’s what baseball needs.” 

On the mound, Jon Lester bounced back from a run of three straight underwhelming performances. June hasn’t been kind to Lester, as the lefty had allowed 14 runs over the last 23 IPs prior to Monday’s start, good for a 5.93 FIP. He threw 94 pitches against the Braves, lasting six innings while allowing two runs -- both unearned, though -- and striking out seven. He only threw 94 pitches, but his control (0 BB) was excellent. Lester spotted his strikeout pitch well all night, getting four of his six right-handed K’s on the low outside corner:

“I just tried to stay down there, and had the backdoor cutter to those guys,” Lester said. “We were able to kind of exploit that, and then when we felt that guys were reaching out there a little bit, I ran the cutter in on some guys too. I was just able to command both sides of the plate tonight, which is huge against an offense like that.” 

“Great job by Jon,” Maddon added, “Jon had great stuff. Coming off of [throwing 114 pitches], he’s been throwing a lot of pitches on regular rest, so I wanted to limit that tonight. He was lobbying to go back out, but I didn’t feel good about it based on the longevity of the season and we had a rested Kintzler.

“But Jon was really good, and really good against a tough lineup.”

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Live from Wrigley it's Cubs Authentic Fan Night

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Live from Wrigley it's Cubs Authentic Fan Night

Ozzie Guillen and Doug Glanville join Leila Rahimi to talk all things Chicago baseball as the Cubs take on the Braves and the White Sox look to get a win in Boston.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: