"Good day for Baker."
That was the mantra for Cubs players in the home clubhouse at Wrigley Field Friday as the media swarmed the locker of backup catcher John Baker after he drove in four runs in a 7-2 win.
Baker entered the game hitting .160 on the year and doubled his season RBI output with the performance, going 3-for-3 with a walk. He came through with the big hit in the bottom of the seventh inning, clearing the bases with a 2-out double down the right field line, adding insurance runs for pitcher Jason Hammel to pick up his seventh victory.
"I'm more happy about the win and getting Jason the win again," Baker said after the game. "He's pitched pretty well his last few outings and we haven't supported him offensively. Anything I can do to help out makes me happy selfishly and unselfishly for him as well."
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Baker's been around the block before. The 33-year-old has made a career as a backup catcher, bouncing around from organization to organization. The California dude has a carefree attitude and knows the game can be humbling.
As he's struggled this year, Baker has done his best to keep things on an even keel and set an example for the younger players in the clubhouse.
"[Today] was great. I was really happy. I had to contain a smile," Baker said. "This whole year for me, I've hit the ball pretty hard most of the time and when you don't have success — we joke about it often as baseball players where you want that check mark or something like 'oh, I hit the ball and it counted for a base hit.'
"But that hasn't happened to me all year. I've been around this game a long time, so I've stayed the same. I kind of feel the same way right now as I would have had I gone 0-for-4, but we still won 7-2.
"I think that's the point of me being an older player, being a backup catcher. The main focus for me is for us to win the game. That's the only thing I generally care about, but when you get a couple hits, it's like the cherry on top of the sundae."
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After a rocky start to the 2014 campaign, the Cubs have posted a 21-17 record since May 17. Baker was quick to give Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro the credit for carrying the team on offense, but attributed the recent success to a collective approach from the team, with role players stepping up to help complement the bounceback seasons from the franchise cornerstones.
But in a few weeks, this won't be the same team anymore. As the MLB trade deadline approaches, the Cubs look likely to maintain the new tradition of trading away 40 percent of their rotation with Hammel and Jeff Samardzija on the block.
For his part, Baker doesn't want to see those guys go, even if he understands that it's just part of the business.
"Yeah, you get the sense that someone's going to be gone, but you don't want them to be gone," Baker said. "A lot of us have been around baseball for so long that you make friends fast and easy come, easy go.
"It can be sad; it can be difficult. I really hope Hammel stays around because we've developed a really good relationship. I've caught every one but one of his starts and it's a lot of fun for me to know that regardless of who's pitching for the other team, I get to be out there when he pitches. It gives me somebody to root for."