At 5-feet-10 inches and weighing about 190 pounds, Darwin Barney doesnt exactly have the physical stature of a power hitter, even if he wanted to become one.
But thanks to an ongoing workout plan that began in the offseason, Barney has turned body fat into muscle, and hes taking advantage of the extra energy his new physique has provided.
When youre small and skinny, its not going to help anybody, Barney said. Its just one of those things in this game. You look around, these are the best players in the world. You gotta keep up. Having some strength is definitely part of that.
Barney displayed that strength while energizing Wrigley Field with a two-run home run Sunday, giving Matt Garza more than enough runs as the Cubs completed a three-game sweep over Arizona with a 3-1 victory.
Garza (5-7) threw seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts to help the Cubs to their 12th victory in 16 games, and fourth in a row. Chicago also has won a season-high six straight at Wrigley.
Barneys home run, his fourth of the season, came in the second inning and staked Garza to a 3-0 lead. It was Barneys second key extra-base hit in as many days following Saturdays two-out double in Chicagos 4-1 victory.
A lot of his hits have been big this year, whether theyve kept the line moving at just the right time or popping a home run, manager Dale Sveum said. Hes done a great job. Obviously we know what hes done defensively. Like I said before, there is nobody whos been better at second base than he has been.
With one out and Bryan LaHair at second, Barney drove a 1-2 offering from Trevor Cahill into the left-field bleachers. His three RBI in the past two games are Barneys first of July.
Barney said he dropped nearly 20 pounds down to 170 in the first half of last season when his body fat registered at around 14 percent. Now he said hes at 190 with only eight percent body fat.
Losing 20 pounds last year, that was hard on the body, he said. Ive done a decent job of maintaining what I gained this year. I wouldnt say it has anything to do with hitting the ball, hitting home runs, stuff like that. Its just coming to the park feeling energized every day.
As much as Barneys home run helped, it was Garza who made the early lead stick. In his best outing since late April, Garza only allowed two runners past second base and none beyond that.
That allowed him to earn the victory despite the Cubs offense stalling after that early display. It was the 12th time in Garzas 17 starts this season the Cubs scored three or fewer runs for him.
But it didnt matter.
Garza found a groove as the game progressed. After allowing at least one runner in the first five innings, he retired the final seven batters he faced before being pulled to begin the eighth inning.
I felt good today, Garza said. I was able to stay with my mechanics real well. And when I didnt I was able to catch myself and adjust quick. Ive been searching to get back to where I was, and I kind of used the (All-Star) break to reflect and get back to having fun and attacking hitters.
Garza only walked one batter and allowed five hits. He extended his home success by giving up three or fewer runs for the 18th consecutive start at Wrigley. He also extended the stretch of success the Cubs pitching staff is seeing.
In the past five games, the starters have a 1.13 ERA, while the bullpen recorded a 1.50 ERA. Garza said the pitchers are feeding off each others success.
You dont want to be that guy, Garza said. So you just keep going, keep pumping strikes. A lot of things we got beat on was walks. A big part of my game is keeping guys off bases. A lot of my runs are by home run -- and not solo shots. If I want to limit walks that is putting a lot of pressure on myself to make a big pitch.
While the Cubs are on a good run, the reality is it could change any day now as the non-waiver trading deadline approaches. Garza is one of several Cubs players whose name is being attached to trade rumors.
Garza said hes tuning that talk out. Hes got something bigger on his mind.
All we can control is what we do between the lines and how we prepare, he said. Ive got a wife who is due in about 23 days, so the rumor mill can wait.