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Cubs 8, Dodgers 7: Chris Coghlan, Take A Bow

An afterthought of a signing by the Cubs last winter might turn out to be pretty good after all.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

I'll freely admit it. I wasn't in favor of the Chris Coghlan signing last January, not even to a minor-league deal. It seemed like a waste of time; Coghlan hadn't done much since his Rookie of the Year season in 2009, had spent time in the Marlins' minor leagues and was let go by Miami at the end of 2013.

Coghlan started 2014 at Triple-A Iowa and had a poor start in the major leagues, going 5-for-34 with no extra-base hits in May and as late as June 26, he was still hitting under .200 (.193 in 100 plate appearances).

But then he became the more-or-less regular left fielder, and started hitting. From July 1 through Friday he was hitting .303/.365/.461 with 22 doubles and four home runs in 254 at-bats. Saturday, he had a career day, going 4-for-4 with a single, a double and two home runs. The second of those homers was the game-winner, a two-run shot off Brian Wilson in the bottom of the eighth to cap a comeback from five runs down (twice) and complete a totally-unexpected 8-7 win over the Dodgers. The San Francisco Giants will probably be giving great thanks to the Cubs, as the Dodgers' defeat could bring them to within 2½ games of the Dodgers if they can defeat the Padres Saturday night.

Twice the Dodgers had a five-run lead -- 6-1 going into the bottom of the fourth, and 7-2 entering the last of the seventh. I can't recall the Cubs overcoming a five-run deficit at Wrigley Field this year, and in addition to Coghlan, there were other Cubs heroes:

  • The bullpen (Carlos Villanueva, Blake Parker, Wesley Wright, Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon), who relieved the shaky Felix Doubront with one out in the third inning and threw a combined 6⅔ innings and gave up just five hits and a run.
  • Arismendy Alcantara, whose three-run homer capped a four-run seventh to bring the Cubs to within one run at 7-6.
  • Anthony Rizzo, who went 2-for-4 on what was supposedly his first day back to everyday playing.
  • And Matt Szczur, who threw out Justin Turner trying to advance to second base after a sacrifice fly by Scott Van Slyke had scored the Dodgers' seventh run. That ended the seventh inning and stopped the Dodgers' scoring.

All of that happened on an alternately sunny, then wet, then sunny, then wet again afternoon where it rained, moderately so, from the fourth through the sixth innings. It wasn't windy and there was no lightning and it appeared the umpiring crew was going to have play continue unless either of those things had happened. There were no issues with playing, apparently, due to the rain, and the only place that needed a little drying agent/Turface was the pitcher's mound.

A tip o' the cap, too, beyond the general bullpen mention above, to Rondon (26th save). He earned this one, having to face the middle of the Dodgers' order, probably their three best hitters in Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez (who had homered twice off his former Red Sox teammate, Doubront, earlier in the game) and Matt Kemp. Rondon rose to the occasion, getting Puig on a ground ball, Gonzalez on a routine fly to left, and Kemp to end it on a called third strike. You can talk about Neil Ramirez or Arodys Vizcaino as potential future closers, but I really would have no trouble with Rondon closing for the Cubs for the next several seasons. Rondon will be 27 in February, likely entering his best years; he throws 95+ with ease, and doesn't mess around while saving games. Saturday, his save involved a reasonable 13 pitches, but he's recorded 11 of his 26 saves with fewer than 13 pitches, a refreshing change from the high-wire save act that was Carlos Marmol even in his good years.

Credit where credit is due. I'm not a big fan of Rule 5 picks, as you know, but this one is a real feather in Theo & Co.'s caps. Well done.

As for Coghlan, he still makes me cringe at times with his routes to fly balls. Remember that he was an infielder in the minor leagues, though he's played just 10 big-league games there (eight at third base, two at second). Maybe he could go back and work on his infield skills over the winter; eventually, he's not going to be a starting outfielder for the Cubs but he could be quite useful as a versatile bench player if he could play second base or third base as well as left field. Looks like I was wrong about Coghlan and he could be an asset to the Cubs for the next few years.

At last, we are perhaps done with rain for the 2014 season, though there's a slight chance of a shower Sunday. After that the three games against the Cardinals should be played in fine early-fall weather and, of course, the Cubs finish the year in a stadium with a roof.

Before that, though, they'll try to win the season series from the Dodgers. Each club has won three of the six games so far and the season finale between the Dodgers and Cubs is Sunday, with Jacob Turner facing ... well, according to this probable pitchers list, it'll be 39-year-old Jamey Wright (who threw in relief Thursday) starting for L.A., which means the game will likely be a bullpen day for the Dodgers, a good chance for the Cubs to take the game and split this series and win the season series.