Can Robel Garcia emerge as X-factor for Cubs? 'We're gonna find out'

Can Robel Garcia emerge as X-factor for Cubs? 'We're gonna find out'

Even from a distance, it's easy to pick Robel Garcia out of the crowd of Cubs players as he rocks red sleeves underneath his jersey to match his red batting gloves. 

It's also been easy to project him into the Cubs lineup of late — playing second base and hitting toward the bottom of the order. 

As the Cubs kicked off the second half of the season Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, there was Garcia again, drawing his fourth straight start. 

The Cubs could use an offensive spark and right before the All-Star Break, Garcia showed flashes of being that guy with 4 hits — including 2 homers and a triple — and a pair of walks. That gives him 23 homers this year between the majors and two levels of minor-league ball.

The switch-hitter wasn't immediately able to carry that success over into the second half, as he struck out in each of his first two trips to the plate against Pittsburgh's Chris Archer Friday. But he drove in a run his third time up with a hard-hit sacrifice fly to right field. 

In general, the Cubs need more production out of the second base position and at least in the short-term, they'll continue to give Garcia an opportunity. Maddon has him scheduled to start at least one more game against the Pirates this weekend.

"We're gonna find out [what Garcia can offer]," Maddon said Friday morning. "Obviously he came out swinging the bat very well. His primary position has been second base. He's played some third base, also. You want to keep him pretty comfortable with all that.

"Both sides of the plate — I was watching him right-handed and it's a really nice, short swing and — *boom* — that ball went pretty far. We just need to get him out there. ... Just let him go play. The kid's been through a lot to get here. I don't want to heap a lot of extravagant expectations on him right now. ... I think it's wise to just go let him play and see where it takes us."

A little over a week ago, the 26-year-old Garcia had never played in the big leagues and up until Friday, he had never even stepped foot onto Wrigley Field. 

His main focus has been on tamping down his anxiety and excitement as he tries to get used to the speed of the big-league game and the pressure that comes with it. 

"I just need to try to take control to slow the game down and hopefully that should help things slow down for me to be able to stay here," Garcia said. "[Getting to play at Wrigley Field] is another goal accomplished. This is a historic team with a historic fanbase and I'm really glad to be here."

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper


With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

The last three games have been more than forgettable for the Cubs.

From Wednesday’s 11-1 drubbing at the hands of the Phillies to back-to-back walk-off losses on Thursday and Friday, the Cubs’ current road trip has looked much like those that preceded it. At various times, the offense has scuffled, the rotation has pitched a clunker and the bullpen has cracked.

The solution to the latest road trip woes? Give the ball to Jon Lester and get the hell out of the way.

Lester —  who pitched a clunker himself Aug. 6 against the A’s — did what the Cubs have become so accustomed to see him do over the past four seasons. The 35-year-old tossed 6+ shutout innings, allowing just four hits, leading the Cubs to a 2-0 win.

Lester had no room for error on Saturday, as the Cubs offense went hitless for the first 4 1/3 innings. While the Cubs bats were asleep, the Pirates threatened to break the game on open multiple times, loading the bases with one out (first inning), no outs (fifth) and getting runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth.

The latter two of those instances were assisted by errors by third baseman Kris Bryant, but that’s neither here nor there. Point being, with how the Cubs looked offensively, any Pirates runs could have proved critical on Saturday. Instead, Lester worked out of every jam, stymying the Pirates bats to an 0-for-12 line with RISP.

Winning Saturday’s game was obviously important for the Cubs, as it puts them a game ahead of the Cardinals in the win column (pending the outcome of St. Louis's game against the Reds later Saturday). But it was equally important for Lester, who called himself the “weakest link” in the Cubs starting rotation after that tough outing against the A’s.

The beautiful thing about baseball is that the regular season is 162 games long. Each day presents teams with a new slate, a chance to forget about what happened in the previous game and move forward.  If Saturday’s start shows anything, it’s that Lester and the Cubs are more than capable of putting a tough game in the rearview mirror and keep moving forward.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Get to know Kelly Crull podcast

NBC Sports Chicago

Cubs Talk Podcast: Get to know Kelly Crull podcast

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, we get to know Kelly Crull. Kelly tells Luke Stuckmeyer about her love of bowling growing up, why she became a reporter and some of her favorite moments covering the Cubs.

01:00 Kelly's love of tennis at an early age

04:00 Following basketball while growing up in Indiana

06:00 Possible tennis showdown between Kelly and Megan Mawicke

09:30 Kelly talks about working in London & interviewing J.K. Rowling

14:00 When did she decide to become a reporter?

15:00 What is her favorite food?

16:00 Kelly's go-to karaoke song

18:00 Kelly's favorite NBA story (it involves Kevin Durant)

21:00 Favorite moments covering the Cubs

24:00 Dealing with the weather at Wrigley Field

28:00 Something we don't know about Kelly

31:00 What does Kelly enjoy watching at home the most?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast