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Reed Johnson, Koyie Hill play like first-stringers as Cubs top Giants 11-4

Cubs outfielder Reed Johnsmakes highlight-reel grab fly ball hit by San Francisco Giants' Mike Fontenot second inning Friday Wrigley Field.

Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson makes a highlight-reel grab of a fly ball hit by the San Francisco Giants' Mike Fontenot in the second inning Friday at Wrigley Field. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: May 18, 2013 6:00PM



Every winning team wins because of every player.

That isn’t just an attitude among players who don’t start regularly, such as Cubs catcher Koyie Hill and outfielder Reed Johnson.

‘‘You see it all the time,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘On all the best teams, there’s a different guy who comes up with the game on the line. We have to spread the wealth, and the team will be successful if we can do that.’’

The evidence was there Friday, with Johnson and Hill instrumental in an 11-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants that gave the Cubs their first series-opening victory in their last seven, dating to April 22.

‘‘To win the first game of a series is huge, especially with the pitching they have,’’ said Hill, whose perfect safety-squeeze bunt in the second scored Alfonso Soriano and led to a three-run inning. ‘‘I’d say it’s as ­important as anything else.’’

On a cool day with rain threatening and the wind blowing in, manager Mike Quade reasoned that the play was warranted.

‘‘If the opportunity presents itself, and [Hill] spent a lot of time working on improving his bunting in spring training,’’ Quade said. ‘‘You play for one, and then they walked [Ryan Dempster], and you get three.’’

Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney, back heading the lineup, teamed for another productive day. Castro, (3-for-5, two runs scored, two RBI) and Barney (3-for-5, two runs scored, three RBI) were the engines early after Dempster minimized the
Giants to one run in the first inning.

But it was Johnson — the fourth outfielder, given a start against Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner (0-6) — who had some of the biggest of the Cubs’ 14 hits and the defensive gem in the second before the bats got going.

He back-pedaled into the well along the right-field wall to retrieve Mike Fontenot’s drive, the latest of the highlight-reel catches on his resumé.

‘‘How about that play?’’ Quade said. ‘‘We’ve seen him make so many. He’s playing extremely well.

‘‘You mix and match [the lineup] and do what you can. He understands his role and, no doubt, he wants to play every day. But he’s been doing this type of [utility] thing for many years, and he’s really good at it.’’

Johnson has become really good in late innings, too. He came through again in the seventh with a bases-loaded triple that broke open a 3-2 game, then added an RBI single in a three-run eighth. It hiked his average to .435 (10-for-23) in the seventh inning or later, a supreme plus for a late-inning reserve. He’s batting .405 overall in 25 games.

‘‘He’s a professional,’’ Dempster (2-4) said after his third straight strong outing, which included a season-high 11 strikeouts in six innings. ‘‘I know he doesn’t play every day, but when he does, he makes those plays. He’s a big part of the team on the field and in the clubhouse. I’m
always fired up when he plays. A guy like Reed brings a lot more to a team than stats. He brings great energy.’’

It’s because Johnson, Hill and
the other reserves have a starter’s approach.

‘‘Just because we don’t start as ­often as we’d like to, we don’t feel that way in our minds,’’ Hill said. ‘‘You come ready to play every day, we talk strategy every day. We know if we bring our best effort, we’ll bring something positive.’’



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