Cubs’ situational hitting a bright spot in 3-0 victory over Brewers
BY SETH GRUEN Staff Reporter May 17, 2014 10:42PM
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 17: Outfielders Junior Lake #21 (L-R), Emilio Bonifacio #64 and Nate Schierholtz #19 of the Chicago Cubs celebrate their win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Brewers 3-0. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 477583367
Updated: June 23, 2014 1:04PM
Progress comes in small doses at Wrigley Field, making the ear-to-ear grin that Cubs manager Rick Renteria flashed Saturday when talking about his team’s hitting something to savor.
A 3-0 victory against the Milwaukee Brewers meant, in the short term, that the Cubs snapped a three-game losing streak. But Renteria gave big-picture perspective to a game that saw the Cubs execute at-bats as well as they have all season.
“Today was a good development day,” Renteria said.
Isn’t that what this season is about?
If one buys into the Cubs’ long-term plans for building a contender, wins and losses mean little. The season will be measured more by batting average, on-base percentage and, most importantly, the team’s ability to execute situational plays.
This game was a glaring contrast to the one Friday in which the Cubs struggled mightily to execute at-bats.
Knowing that Brewers starter Matt Garza, who was traded by the Cubs to the Texas Rangers last season, struggles to throw to first, the Cubs immediately tested him by bunting on their first two at-bats.
Emilio Bonifacio reached base on his first-pitch bunt, and Chris Coghlan moved him to second, igniting a three-run first inning. A day earlier, Coghlan had grounded a bunt into a force out with an opportunity to advance the potential tying run into scoring position in the ninth.
The Cubs were able to expose Garza’s glaring issue simply by executing.
“[Garza has] got a problem throwing the ball,” catcher Welington Castillo said. “But a couple guys went just straight at him, and that worked a little bit for us.”
Said Bonifacio: “If you put [the bunt] right at him, he is going to run to the base. That’s why I tried to put a really good bunt down.”
For most of this season, the Cubs’ offense hasn’t been just inconsistent, but consistently bad in some of the most crucial game-defining situations.
Heading into the game, the Cubs were hitting .183 with runners in scoring position and two out. But on Saturday, their three runs — all scored in the first inning — came with two outs.
Castillo, who has been a bright spot in that situation — hitting .333 before Saturday — ripped a two-out double that drove in two runs. Castillo said the team executed what it had discussed in a meeting.
“When you talk about it and then they put it into action, yeah, it’s a good thing, because they’re taking it to heart,” Renteria said. “Again, it’s not easy to do. But it’s just one day.
“There’s a long season and we got to chip away at it a lot over the course of the rest of the season.”
After the first inning, Garza’s command improved drastically.
That left the Cubs struggling to get on base, but Renteria said that he remained pleased with the way the team was handling at-bats.
“There were some things that haven’t been happening that today did,” he said.
“In that [first] particular inning, we just got pitches up that we could handle and they did what they needed to do.”