Jeff Baker has kind of been a forgotten man through most of his major league career. Unable to get playing time except as a backup with the Rockies, he was shipped to the Cubs in midseason 2009 for the wonderfully-named Al Alburquerque (and if you don't know, that's the way the city in New Mexico should be spelled). He's not a great second baseman or third baseman, but one thing he does extremely well is rip on lefthanded pitching. Last year he hit .350/.395/.550 against them in 152 plate appearances, and in his career he's a .314/.367/.555 hitter (449 PA) against lefties.
So it is that Baker has settled into a role as platoon second baseman for the Cubs; he's not great defensively, but good enough to start vs. LHP and lead off. Last night that role paid off big-time for the Cubs in a 7-4 win over the Brewers; Baker had four hits, including a three-run homer in a five-run Cubs fourth inning.
Wait, did I write that right? A Cub had a key home run in a five-run inning? What team is this I'm writing about, anyway?
It's too early to make any judgments about this Cubs team, but they have now come from behind in two of their four wins, and also had a second home run (Geovany Soto's first of the year, a two-run shot) to tie the game 2-2 before Baker's blast.
Also good about last night's game: the bullpen worked exactly as planned, with Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol each throwing a scoreless inning after the starting pitcher threw well enough to turn over a lead to them. OK, so Carlos Zambrano wasn't exactly great; he struggled with his command at times and gave up a home run to his nemesis Prince Fielder (the fourth time Fielder has taken Z deep), but got out of jams and turned over a 6-4 lead to the Cubs' outstanding three best relievers. Marmol, for his part, decided to make it interesting, giving up a hit and a walk before closing things out. But that's Marmol, right? We have to live with occasional nervousness in his save opportunities.
The crowd was somewhat smaller than the automatic sellouts we've seen in the past few years for Cubs/Brewers games at Miller Park, though 34,310 is still a good turnout on a Friday night in April. I'd expect tonight to be close to a sellout, and Sunday to be a bit less. I'll be up there on Sunday in section 103.
And tonight, Jeff Baker will get another chance to prove his worth against a lefthanded starter; the Brewers will be sending Chris Narveson to face the Cubs' Matt Garza. Three of the Cubs' four wins so far have come in games started by lefties. Keep up the good work!