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Cubs beat Rockies 3-1 as Dale Sveum eyes winning record

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Updated: July 20, 2013 1:36AM

DENVER — Is it possible the Cubs are playing better the deeper they go into the trading season knowing guys such as Matt Garza and Kevin Gregg are heading out the door in less than two weeks?

If Jeff Samardzija — who said he finally felt right mechanically for the first time all year — finishes the season like he started the second half Friday night, could manager Dale Sveum be right when he says the team is capable of finishing with a winning record?

Performances such as prospect Junior Lake’s 3-for-4 major-league debut certainly won’t hurt, either.

Behind Samardzija’s powerful 7 1/3 innings and another lights-out relief outing by Pedro Strop, the Cubs beat the Colorado Rockies 3-1 at Coors Field for their 12th win in 19 games.

That has them at eight games under .500, matching their highest water mark since mid-May and needing a 38-30 run to finish break-even for the first time in four years.

“It’s important to get back to .500 and above,” Sveum said, straying for the first time from the company line of “If it ain’t the playoffs, might as well lose 100.”

“We have the starting pitching to be able to do that,” he added, apparently ignoring the fact the front office is about to trade his best pitcher, Garza. “And if [Starlin] Castro and [Anthony] Rizzo swing the bats like they’re capable for the second half, and [Alfonso] Soriano stays hot, you’re capable of doing a lot of things like that.”

Soriano complied Friday, hitting his 10th homer in 17 games, and Rizzo drove in the go-ahead run with a seventh-inning double.

“The bullpen is more functional,” said Sveum, who also is on the verge of losing his closer, Gregg, to a trade. “You can do a lot of things with it. And we’ve got to get guys hot with the bats, to get the key hits in those situations.”

The play of the game might have come with runners at first and third and two outs in the bottom of the fourth, when Samardzija threw one in the dirt that got past catcher Welington Castillo.

Castillo pounced quickly on the ball and fired to Samardzija, who stood his ground long enough to get a tag down on hard-sliding Troy Tulowitzki before tumbling away from the plate.

“That was a momentum switch in the game,” Sveum said. “Kind of a funny combination to be one of our top web gems of the year.”

Said Samardzija: “Not how you write it up, that’s for sure. It’s just a freak play, and it worked out in our favor.”

Mostly because Samardzija stood in against Tulowitzki bearing down.

“It’s major-league baseball. We’re not playing T-ball or anything,” Samardzija said.

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