Carlos Villanueva gets it done in win over Phillies
BY TONI GINNETTI Staff Reporter April 6, 2014 4:44PM
Updated: April 6, 2014 9:58PM
The big hug manager Rick Renteria gave pitcher Carlos Villanueva after five innings against Philadelphia Sunday was as much about his first two relief outings as for his just-completed start.
Both relief appearances ended in walk-off losses in extra innings.
This time, Villanueva helped his team and his manager get their first win at Wrigley Field.
‘‘How about that guy? I use him twice in Pittsburgh. He comes back and gets us out of a jam,’’ Renteria said after the 8-3 victory that prevented the Phillies from completing a three-game sweep.
The jam came in the fourth after two singles and a Starlin Castro error loaded the bases with one out. Villanueva (1-2) got a comeback grounder for a force at home and then got opposing pitcher A.J. Burnett to fly out.
‘‘Quite frankly, I was impressed with how he did that,’’ Renteria said. Kept pitching out of jams and not worrying about something happening that would let the air out of the balloon. He kept pitching and kept us in the game.’’
It wasn’t always like that for Villanueva, who made his first start since August before a stretch of 18 consecutive relief appearances.
‘‘I wasn’t happy [about the losses in Pittsburgh], but I feel I’ve grown in my years here,’’ he said. ‘‘If it had happened to me five, six years ago, I don’t know how I would have handled it.
‘‘But you take the positive out of it and say ‘I only gave up two runs [in the losses].’ That’s how I saw it. I got a chance to contribute with today’s start. You have to forget about [the losses.]’’
He also shrugged off the fourth-inning error by Castro, who had helped give the Cubs a 4-0 lead in the first with an RBI double.
‘‘You have a choice there,’’ Villanueva said. ‘‘You can get upset and let it rattle you, or you pick him up. He’s not trying to make an error.
‘‘I talk a lot to Starlin and he’s worked hard to improve his defense. The best thing I can do there is pick him up, make sure he understands I’m not upset at him, and hopefully he gets another [chance] to make him feel better.
‘‘I had a pitching coach once tell me sometimes you have to get four or five outs in an inning. It’s up to us as pitchers to keep everything calm.’’
It helped that the bats came through effectively. There were only six hits, but they were timely.
The Cubs were helped by three Burnett walks in the first, and a Ben Revere misplay in center field on Ryan Sweeney’s fly.
Two sacrifice flies in the first from Nate Schierholtz and Sweeney tallied runs as well.
‘‘We strung together some good at-bats the last few days with nothing to show for it,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘Today we had some balls find holes.’’
The Phillies scored only one off Villanueva in the fifth but added two in the ninth when closer Jose Veras loaded the bases with walks and a wild pitch. Pedro Strop finished the inning but not before another wild pitch scored a run.
‘‘We wanted to give Jose some work,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘As much as people think it doesn’t occur, I see [bad things] happen [to closers in non-save situations.]’’