LIVE: Cubs clawing back, trail Arizona 4-3

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LIVE: Cubs clawing back, trail Arizona 4-3

Sunday, May 1, 2011
Posted: 11:16 a.m.

Associated Press

Alfonso Soriano's hot streak has helped the Chicago Cubs put together back-to-back road wins for the first time this season.

Looking to continue their impressive play at Chase Field, Soriano and the Cubs close out a four-game set with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.

After a poor pitching performance led to an 11-2 loss in Thursday's series opener, the Cubs (12-14) have rebounded with two straight wins thanks in part to Soriano's surging bat.

The 13-year veteran, whose production has been known to come in spurts, homered twice in Friday's 4-2 win and took a share of the major league lead with his 10th home run to help Chicago to a 5-3 victory Saturday.

The Cubs have taken 10 of 12 against the Diamondbacks (11-15) overall and five of six on the road.

Soriano, who has four homers and five RBIs in his last three games, is batting .346 with six home runs and 12 RBIs in his last eight in Phoenix.

While Soriano has produced an offensive spark, manager Mike Quade provided some inspiration after he was ejected for arguing a call in the ninth inning Saturday.

"He knows what he's doing. He can get us riled up any time he wants. It was a good time for it," said second baseman Darwin Barney, who went 2 for 5 and drove in one of Chicago's two runs in the ninth. "Everyone's battling. This team doesn't give up. We're just trying to enjoy it, thrive on it and keep winning."

Matt Garza gave up three runs in eight innings as the Cubs improved to 9-2 when their starter allows four runs of fewer.

"Whoever coined the phrase 'pitching is 90 percent of the game' either was really smart or was stating the obvious," Quade said. "It's about setting the tone and keeping your club in the game."

Chicago will look for Casey Coleman (1-1, 7.43 ERA) to do just that Sunday. Coleman, though, hasn't pitched since allowing a season-worst six runs and six hits in 2 2-3 innings of a 12-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 22.

"I don't think I've seen Casey like that since he got here last year," Quade told the Cubs' official website. "He looked completely out of sync from the get go. I really haven't a clue why. He was missing down, and you watch him and that's kind of what we want, but not that often."

The right-hander, who has never faced Arizona, is 3-0 with a 3.04 ERA over his last four road starts dating to last season.

The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, have lost seven of 10 and will turn to Daniel Hudson to get them back on track.

After losing his first four starts, Hudson (1-4, 5.64) finally showed signs of coming around in his most recent outing, surrendering three runs and 10 hits in six innings en route to earning his first victory of the season in Tuesday's 7-5 win over Philadelphia.

"I thought I threw a lot of good pitches, especially in the first inning," Hudson told the Diamondbacks' official website. "They found a couple of holes. It's probably the best stuff I have had all year."

Hudson has compiled a 2.60 ERA in nine starts at Chase Field since he was acquired from the Chicago White Sox on July 30.

Shortstop Stephen Drew went 2 for 4 with two RBIs Saturday, giving him 11 in his last seven home games.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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How Ian Happ helped the 2017 Cubs find their identity

How Ian Happ helped the 2017 Cubs find their identity

How Ian Happ helped the 2017 Cubs find their identity

In the span of just over a week, Ian Happ has gone from arguably the Cubs' biggest trade piece to the 2017 savior.

OK, "savior" is extreme, but Happ has been an unlikely stabilizing force for the defending world champions.

In a week's worth of big-league action (seven games), Happ has smacked six extra base-hits, scored seven runs and posted a 1.182 OPS. But his impact has been so much more than just the numbers on the back of his Topps card.

Happ's presence has helped the Cubs reinvent themselves.

The plan heading into the 2017 season was to have Kyle Schwarber lead off and Ben Zobrist reprise his 2016 role as lineup protection for Anthony Rizzo.

But with Schwarber struggling atop the order, Happ's presence has freed up the ever-patient Zobrist to become the team's new leadoff as the week-old rookie is now protecting a perennial MVP candidate in Rizzo.

"It's all based on Ian Happ," Joe Maddon said. "I'm still very aware of protecting Rizzo. And that's where Zobrist came in handy. Now to this point, I'm looking at last month's numbers, Zo's really ascending and Schwarbs has come back a little bit regarding just getting on base.

"So Zo's the most likely candidate among all the groups to try to get on base more often and Rizzo's still protected with Ian. Just moving everybody down one slot with Ian there taking the role of Zobrist, I kinda wanted to give it a try."

It's only one game, but the refurbished lineup scored 13 runs Sunday, collecting 10 extra-base hits and scoring in seven of eight offensive innings.

Happ was right there in the middle of it all, smoking a 108 mph double off the right field wall in the first inning and doubling again later in the game. 

Zobrist homered. Rizzo homered. Bryant — who said hitting third is where he's most comfortable in the lineup — crushed a pair of homers and reached base five times. Schwarber went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a walk.

With Happ's presence bumping Schwarber down in the order, Maddon also has moved back to hitting the pitcher last.

"In my mind's eye, I'm more able or wanting to hit the pitcher ninth again because Schwarber is moved back," Maddon said. "Part of the method was to try to feed Schwarber with a nine-hole hitter."

With Happ in the lineup, the Cubs are averaging 6.3 runs per game. 

Again, it's a small sample size and the Cubs were due for an offensive explosion after a slow start to the season, but Happ has been a central figure.

"Nothing surprises me [with him]," Bryant said. "We all saw what he can do in spring. It's not surprising at all. He's definitely provided a spark for us since he's been up.

"He's just been great out there, moving all over the field. I don't even know what his main position is, but if it's center field, he's out there doing a good job, too."

Willson Contreras helped provide the 2016 Cubs with a jolt of energy when he made his debut in mid-June. Happ is doing the same thing this season, though his arrival has come a month earlier in the 2017 campaign.

Happ has only played one full season of professional baseball and appeared in just 91 games above A-ball before making his big-league debut.

But he's looked like he belongs from the outset, blending into a clubhouse that has welcomed so many young position players over the last few years.

Maddon's message to Happ upon arriving was simple: Why don't you stay a while?

It's not as catchy as "try not to suck," but it has helped Happ relax.

"Sometimes, we underestimate the impact we have on anybody," Maddon said. "In my situation, as a manager to the player, so you say something like that just trying to get somebody to relax and who knows?

"Like Javy with 'try not to suck' a couple years ago, who knows how it's processed and how it permits the player to process the day? I knew how good [Happ] was in spring training, I knew how good he's been this season and I just know how he is.

"So there was no reason for him not to approach it like, 'I want to stay a while.'"

Happ spent most of his time in the minors as a second baseman, but with Baez and Zobrist around, Maddon doesn't see a way to work the rookie in the infield at this time.

But then again, two weeks ago, nobody could fathom how the Cubs could possibly work another position player into the lineup on a consistent basis, but that's worked itself out. Right now, it's Albert Almora Jr. being relegated to the bench as Happ has taken over in center field.

Of course, there's still more than four months left in the season and things will undoubtedly change again. 

But for now, Happ has forced the issue and altered the entire identity of the 2017 Cubs.