Coleman, Cubs need offensive support vs. Brewers

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Coleman, Cubs need offensive support vs. Brewers

Sunday, April 10, 2011
Posted: 10:53 a.m.

Associated Press

Yovani Gallardo has not wasted any time building on his solid 2010 season.

The Milwaukee right-hander has a good chance to continue his success overall and against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday at Miller Park.

Gallardo (1-0, 1.20 ERA) won a career-high 14 games and made his first All-Star team last season. That effort also got him a contract extension that has not hindered his performance through two 2011 starts.

After allowing two runs in six innings of a 7-6 opening-day loss at Cincinnati, Gallardo recorded his fourth complete game when he allowed two hits and scored in a 1-0 win over Atlanta on Tuesday.

"I'm amazed," first-year Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "Knowing when to throw offspeed pitches, knowing when to elevate in the zone, he's got a great feel for it, a great athlete. He's going to help himself win other ball games with the bat and with his fielding.

"He's a special guy."

The Cubs (4-4) know that first hand.

Gallardo is 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA in seven starts versus Chicago, including 2-0 with an 0.95 ERA in three at Miller Park. He allowed eight hits over 14 scoreless innings in two home starts against the Cubs in 2010.

Milwaukee (4-5) gave starter Chris Narveson more than enough support in Saturday's 6-0 win to even the series. Prince Fielder had a career-high three doubles with four RBIs and Ryan Braun added two hits as the Brewers won for the fourth time in five games since starting 0-4.

Fielder started the season 3 for 17 without driving in a run the first five games, but is 8 for 14 with a homer and nine RBIs the last four.

"It's always good having a guy like Braun in front of you because he can go deep, get base hits and steal bases," Fielder said.

Braun is batting .367 with six RBIs this season, and is 4 for 5 against scheduled starter Casey Coleman.

With Randy Wells on the disabled list because of a forearm strain, Coleman will make his 2011 debut after going 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA in eight starts for the Cubs last season.

The right-hander was one of the last players sent to the minors in spring training.

"I understood I needed to go down and get work in and get back up here soon," Coleman told the Cubs' official website. "It stinks the reason I'm up here."

Coleman allowed a run and five hits in six innings of a 2-0 road loss in his only previous start against the Brewers on Sept. 12.

His teammates will need to find a way to break out of their road funk against Gallardo and provide some support after recording six hits while being shut out for the first time in 2011.

Shortstop Starlin Castro is 4 for 9 with three doubles against Gallardo, and batting .353 this season. He's hitting .348 in 11 games versus Milwaukee.

Chicago's biggest offseason acquisition, slugger Carlos Pena, has struck out five times in the series and is batting .222 without a homer for his new club.

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

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Sunday on CSN

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Miami Marlins on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m., followed by first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies on the call. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Mike Montgomery (1-3, 2.26 ERA) vs. Edinson Volquez (3-8, 4.19 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

Jon Lester: It’s go time for Cubs

Jon Lester: It’s go time for Cubs

MIAMI – Jon Lester dropped his head and wiped the sweat from his face. The Cubs ace didn’t jerk his neck and twist his body, hoping the swing and the sound somehow fooled him. The slow turnaround revealed the obvious – the 75-mph curveball out of his left hand flew over the left-field wall and nearly into the Clevelander bar billed as an adult playground. 

Lester gripped the next ball, stared out into the visual noise at Marlins Park and went to work late Saturday afternoon after J.T. Realmuto’s two-out, three-run homer in the first inning. This is the bulldog determination and tunnel vision that’s been the antidote to the big-market pressures at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field and made Lester such a big-game pitcher.

“You really just have to lock it down,” Lester said after doing just that in a 5-3 win. “You have to try to figure out a way to pitch innings. That was one thing I learned at an early age in Boston with ‘Schill’ (Curt Schilling) and Josh (Beckett). It doesn’t matter. Now we start over. You have to take that mindset of ‘It’s back to zero’ and not keep looking at the scoreboard.”

From that Realmuto moment, Lester retired the next 13 hitters he faced, 15 of the next 16 and 18 of his last 20 at a time when the Cubs needed that performance to buy time for their young hitters, weather a series of injuries and survive a brutal schedule.

Lester believed enough in the coming waves of talent to sign with a last-place team after the 2014 season, and got rewarded with his third World Series ring, continually impressed with this group’s poise and maturity.

The day after getting shut out for the sixth time this season, Addison Russell, Ian Happ, Javier Baez and Albert Almora Jr. – four 24-and-under players – combined to go 7-for-15 with five RBI and four runs scored.

“It’s a test for everybody,” Lester said. “These guys are kind of getting broken in early. They’re going to figure it out and we’re going to go. Now it seems like our guys are really feeling comfortable at the plate. We’re having good at-bats, normal at-bats.

“The results will come. This is, obviously, a results-driven industry. But the plans – as far as on the mound and in the batter’s box – just look a lot smoother right now, a lot cleaner and hopefully we can just keep playing good baseball.”

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The Cubs are 38-36, a half-game behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers and in position to win three consecutive series for the first time since April. Whether or not Lester (5-4, 3.83 ERA) returns to Little Havana for the All-Star Game, he is the bellwether for this rotation.  

“Jonny’s just got this thing going on right now,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He knows where the ball is going and he gets the high-number velocity when he wants to. He’s not just pitching at 92, 93, 94 (mph). It’s in his back pocket when he needs it. And he gets it with command when he wants it.

“As well as I’ve seen him pitch – I know he had a great run last year also – from a stuff perspective, command perspective, it’s as good as he can pitch.”

This $155 million investment will at some point become a sunk cost. The Cubs understand the history of nine-figure contracts for pitchers and how desperately they need reinforcements. But almost 100 innings into this title defense, Lester feels like he’s just getting started. 

“I feel better now than I did in April and May, for sure,” Lester said. “I think bigger bodies just take a while sometimes. Some years are different than others. Some years you come out like gangbusters and you’re ready to go and the body feels fine. And other years it takes a while to get into that rhythm of pitching every five days again. This was one of those years.”