Milwaukee, WI, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart hits a home run off Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Marco Estrada at Miller Park. Credit: Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE
Jeff Samardzija had to be taken out of Sunday afternoon's game after five innings, having thrown 91 pitches and just 59 strikes.
LaHair went 0-for-4.
And yet, the Cubs had enough timely hitting -- two solo home runs, one by Ian Stewart, the other by Reed Johnson, and a RBI double by Stewart -- to beat the Brewers 8-2, breaking a 10-game losing streak at Miller Park in Milwaukee, in front of a nearly-full house. The game was close until the ninth inning, when the Cubs unloaded on Brewers reliever Vinnie Chulk for three runs on five hits.
The Cubs even got an RBI double from Alfonso Soriano... but seriously, Dale Sveum and the coaching staff, Soriano can barely run in left field. If that leg is bad enough, put him on the DL. If it's not something that takes a couple of weeks to heal up, at least put him on the bench for a couple of days. He's not helping the team in the outfield.
Actually, Samardzija pitched pretty well in his five innings, striking out six and allowing just three hits; his season ERA dropped to 2.89. That doesn't qualify as a "quality start", for the little that stat is worth, but the Cubs have 19 of them, which puts them in the top half of the National League. Apart from Chris Volstad's well-publicized troubles, the Cubs have had very good performance from their other four starters.
The Brewers took away any chance Shark had to post a personal "win" to his record when Shawn Camp had a shaky sixth inning. He retired the first two hitters easily, but then walked Aramis Ramirez and gave up back-to-back hits to Corey Hart and Taylor Green, tying the game. Naturally, when the Cubs re-took the lead in the next inning, Camp wound up the "winning" pitcher, showing you again how meaningless individual pitcher "wins" are.
Earlier, Hart had made a spectacular diving catch on a long drive to right field by Bryan LaHair, which would have given the Cubs another run.
Cubs baserunners spent part of this day taking advantage of Brewers fielders not holding them on base. Both Darwin Barney and Tony Campana stole third base uncontested. Campana wound up scoring after his steal, although it was on Soriano's double; he'd have scored from second anyway, most likely. Also good in the stolen-base department: Geovany Soto made a perfect throw on an attempted steal by Norichika Aoki to throw him out. The Brewers were credited with two steals Sunday, although one of them -- by Cesar Izturis -- was on a throw made by James Russell to LaHair that had him picked off. LaHair missed the throw and Izturis wound up on third; later, he was thrown out trying to score.
One more good note: Kerry Wood had a solid, scoreless inning, allowing just one harmless single and throwing 13 strikes in 19 pitches. Maybe he's now healthy and can resume his setup role. Not irrelevant, dude.
So the Cubs head to St. Louis for a pair of games that will be played in a 24-hour span (night game Monday, day game Tuesday); at the time I posted this recap the Cardinals were about to be swept by the Braves, and the Cubs have already played the Cardinals fairly tough this year, splitting six games. Who knows?