Chicago Cubs

The comeback: Baker does the job for Cubs

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The comeback: Baker does the job for Cubs

Saturday, April 23, 2011
Posted: 3:49 p.m. Updated: 6:34 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com
Jeff Baker walked back toward the dugout and looked down at the binder Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo placed on the ledge.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were changing relievers in the eighth inning of what was suddenly a tie game. Baker went over his keys, a few quick tendencies on Blake Hawksworth and got ready for another professional at-bat.

The Cubs had already erased a three-run deficit against Matt Guerrier, who came into the game with a 0.00 ERA. Baker excels against left-handers but the Dodgers have none of those in their bullpen.

Manager Mike Quade could have pinch-hit for Baker, but liked how he was already in the flow of Saturdays game. Hawksworth left a breaking ball up, and Baker barreled it.

The line drove bounced all the way to the wall in right field, just below the 368 sign at Wrigley Field, for a two-run double that completed a 10-8 comeback victory.

Its a decision you make and say, The guys been doing a hell of a job for us, lets give him a shot to win this thing, Quade said. And Ill be damned, he did it.

Darwin Barney who has emerged to take the second-base job away from Baker scored first on the play. Aramis Ramirez the third baseman Baker backs up in case of injury scored next.

That leaves Baker as a utility infielder, starting at first base on Saturday in place of Carlos Pena against left-hander Ted Lilly.

Hes always prepared for whatevers thrown at him, pitcher Ryan Dempster said.

Baker will turn 30 this summer and understands how hes being perceived at this stage in his career. He does not want to be labeled as a utility guy and doesnt think the sample size is big enough to say he cant hit right-handers.

But youll never hear Baker whos hitting .361 ripping the manager or the organization.

Thats not my style I like to win, Baker said. Obviously, you in your mind have ways that you want it to go and you want it to happen. But if it doesnt, its not about just me. There are 25 guys on the team. Im not going to complain.

My job is to play when they tell me to play.

The Cubs needed contributions from all over the roster to finish off the Dodgers (11-11).

Reed Johnson another bench player went 2-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and two runs scored. Jeff Samardzija earned the win by getting four outs and getting the ball to Carlos Marmol, who notched his fifth save.

We know that we have a lot of pieces to the puzzle, Barney said. We believe in ourselves. We dont feel were out of the game until its over. We think we can do some things this year. Thats what keeps us going.

The 10-10 Cubs have set a major-league record by hitting the .500 mark every step of the way, which led Quade to say: Its been the strangest 20-game start that I can remember at any level, anywhere.

Inevitably, things will happen over the next 142 games and the Cubs will need players to step up. Baker will be ready for it. He wont be looking over his shoulder for a pinch-hitter.

Thats not my call, Baker said. I dont worry about that stuff. I believe I can hit righties, lefties, it doesnt matter. I dont prepare to go up there and get taken out. I prepare to go up there and get the hit.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views

What really happened between Jon Lester and Chris Bosio

What really happened between Jon Lester and Chris Bosio

What really happened between Jon Lester and Chris Bosio?

After Lester's early exit from Thursday's game against the Cincinnati Reds, cameras caught the Cubs southpaw appearing to have a confrontation in the home dugout with Bosio, the team's pitching coach.

CSN's David Kaplan did some investigating and said Friday on his morning radio show on ESPN 1000 that Lester was expressing frustration with the Cubs defense. It was not directed to Bosio.

The Cubs were trailing 8-0 in the second inning when Lester left the game with left lat tightness. The Reds eventually tacked on another run to make it 9-0. It was a frustrating inning — to say the least — for the Cubs, who eventually erased the nine-run deficit but failed to complete the comeback in a 13-10 loss.

Kaplan also said an update on Lester should come some time Friday morning, but he isn't expected to miss a serious amount of time. He will likely land on the disabled list, though.

Once again, Javier Baez will be a huge X-factor for Cubs down the stretch

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USA TODAY

Once again, Javier Baez will be a huge X-factor for Cubs down the stretch

Javier Baez flicked his bat and watched the ball rocket in the direction of Waveland Avenue, the last of the back-to-back-to-back homers against Cincinnati Reds starter/Cubs trivia answer Scott Feldman.

That quick strike came during a four-homer fourth inning on Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field, where the offense looked explosive and the pitching looked combustible in a 13-10 loss that left the Milwaukee Brewers one game out of first place, the St. Louis Cardinals right behind them and the Cubs awaiting a diagnosis on Jon Lester’s lat injury.

“I know the talent we got,” Baez said. “When they come to play a team like us, we know they’re going to come play hard and obviously play good baseball. They’re going to come to compete, and that’s what we got to do.”

Whatever happens from here – the Cubs are 2-2 so far during a 13-game stretch against last-place teams – you know Baez will be in the middle of the action as the No. 8 hitter with 19 homers this season and a power source with Willson Contreras (strained right hamstring) injured.

This is the starting shortstop until Addison Russell (strained right foot/plantar fasciitis) comes off the disabled list and the unique talent you couldn’t take your eyes off during last year’s playoffs.

“He’s not afraid of anything,” manager Joe Maddon said. “So I don’t care how big or small the game is, he’s going to play the same way. He’s going to do everything pretty much full gorilla all the time.

“Sometimes, he’s going to make a mistake. And that’s OK, because with certain people – with all of us – you got to take the bad with the good. Everybody wants perfection. He’s going to make some mistakes. But most of the time, he’s going to pull off events.”

The night before against the Reds, Baez led off the ninth inning with a line-drive double and scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch. Last week, Statcast clocked him at 16.11 seconds for his inside-the-park homer off the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Over the weekend, he launched another home-run ball 463 feet against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

There are so many different ways Baez can help the Cubs win a game at a time when they don’t have anywhere close to the same margin for error that they did during last season’s joyride into the playoffs.

“I know we often talk about the strikeouts or the big swings,” Maddon said. “But look at his two-strike numbers. Look at his OPS (.808). Look at the run production in general (his 55 RBI match Kris Bryant). It’s been outstanding. And you combine that with first-rate defense.

“Now he’s going to make some mistakes. I’ve talked about that. That’s going to go away with just experience. As he gets older, plays more often, he’s going to make less of those routine mistakes. And the game’s going to get really clean and sharp.”

Until then, Baez will keep taking huge swings, making spectacular plays and trying to cut down on the errors (10 in 334 innings at shortstop, or one less than Russell through 729 innings), because he knows what he means to this team.  

“Javy’s very important,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “He’s one of our best defensive players, one of our most athletic players on the team.

“Javy’s got a really big swing, but he’s got a great eye and he handles the bat really well. For as big as his swing is, he still manages to make really good contact. I don’t want him to approach the game any other way than he does right now.”