♫♪♫ Let's go, let's go, let's go, let's go Down to junior's farm where I want to lay low, Low life, high life, oh, let's go, Take me down to junior's farm. ♫♪♫
Lake went 3-for-4 in his major-league debut with a stolen base, helping lead the Cubs to a 3-1 win over the Rockies in Denver Friday night. And if you think that's an unusual occurrence, you're right. From 2009-2012 the Cubs were 2-11 at Coors Field, and were outscored by the Rockies 104-55 in those 13 games, giving up 10 or more runs in four of the 11 losses. So right there, this is a huge improvement.
The first Cubs run, though, was another home run by Alfonso Soriano, his 17th, in the fourth inning. In 19 games since June 23, Soriano is hitting .308/.329/.795 (yes, a .795 SLG) with six doubles, a triple, 10 home runs and 20 RBI. Perhaps, if the Cubs can't send Matt Garza anywhere, they can finally trade Soriano for some prospects (presuming the Cubs eat the entire contract, or 90 percent of it). The home run tied Soriano with Johnny Bench on the all-time list with 389. Next up: Graig Nettles, 390; Jim Edmonds, 393; Joe Carter, 396.
The Cubs gave the run back in the bottom of the fourth, a solo homer by Dexter Fowler. It was the only run off Jeff Samardzija, who had a bit of a shaky first inning, got out of it, and then threw 7⅓ solid innings, allowing just four hits. Shark also made a nice play at the plate after bouncing a pitch past Welington Castillo with Troy Tulowitzki on third base in the fourth; Castillo fired to Shark, covering the plate, to nail Tulo to end the inning.
Meanwhile, Pedro Strop was summoned when Shark got in trouble in the eighth, and Strop got out of it by getting pinch-hitter Jordan Pacheco to fly to center, and then he struck out Fowler.
Strop has been excellent since the Cubs acquired him from the Orioles, pitching like he did last year. Maybe the Cubs got themselves a decent setup man out of the Scott Feldman trade.
The Cubs scored the eventual winning run on Anthony Rizzo's RBI double in the seventh, and Darwin Barney doubled in an insurance run in the top of the ninth. The Cubs had a nicely balanced offense, as every one of the position players except Starlin Castro reached base, had a hit, drove in a run or scored one.
Lake's 3-for-4 excited many, including me, and Dale Sveum says he's going to get more playing time:
The Cubs didn't plan on bringing Lake up this quickly, but now that he's here manager Dale Sveum plans on using him. "While he's here, he's going to play, basically until (David) DeJesus gets back," Sveum said. "We've seen it before where guys wow you too much to send them back down, and then you have to make room for them somewhere."
Why not? Sure, he's never played center field before, but as he himself said:
"I'm not really focusing on whether I'm an outfielder in the future," he said. "I'm just going to do what I'm called upon to do and take that role and do my best."
That's the right attitude, and Lake certainly is athletic and fast enough to cover center field if needed there. Regarding his playing time, again... this is exactly the right time to see what he can do. We all know his flaws -- not really a solid infielder, so maybe the move to the outfield is the right thing to do, and a lot of strikeouts (though he seems to have cut down on that a bit this year at Iowa). Interesting bit of trivia: Lake is exactly three days younger than Starlin Castro.
Back to the game to wrap it: Kevin Gregg put two runners on base before Chris Bosio came to visit him with one out and the runners on first and third. He must have said the right thing, because Gregg's next pitch was hit by Michael Cuddyer for a game-ending double play. It wasn't the prettiest save, but got the job done, and perhaps Gregg, instead of Garza, will be the next Cub shipped out of town.
The two teams will have at it again Saturday evening, with Carlos Villanueva facing Juan Nicasio. The Cubs have now played good ball for over a month; they're 8-6 in July, and 18-13 since June 12, a .581 pace. Keep up that pace for the rest of the year, and they'd win 83 games for the season (.581 over 68 remaining games = 40-28). Is that likely? Probably not, but this team continues to play close to .500 ball by Pythagorean numbers (-8 run differential, 46-48 Pythagorean record).