MILWAUKEE -- Despite a bullpen that has yet to gain any traction, manager Dale Sveum still trusted his relievers with the final four innings Sunday.
What looked like a questionable move when he pinch hit for Jeff Samardzija in the sixth inning, paid off handsomely when that hitter, Reed Johnson, hit a home run and the offense poured it on late with base hits.
Samardzija was even headed to the bat rack when he noticed that Sveum had other plans.
“They caught me pretty quick there coming down the dugout,” Samardzija said. “But when you have guys like Reed and them to pinch hit for you, especially with the top of the lineup coming up it’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Johnson’s home run briefly put Samardzija in line for the victory, until reliever Shawn Camp coughed up the lead in the bottom of the inning. Camp then got credit for the victory when the Cubs went ahead for good in the seventh inning.
“It’s always good to be able to affect the game like that,” Johnson said. “I knew that he was up there pitch count wise so anytime we have a leadoff situation that’s usually my at-bat as well. Just go in there and put a good swing on it is all I was trying to do.”
While Sveum has said that making the call on when to hit for the pitcher is sometimes the hardest to make, he was confident with this one, even before Johnson pulled through.
“I wouldn’t say it was a tough one,” Sveum said. “He was at his 90 pitches, he pitched well numbers wise, but the ball was up. You can tell it wasn’t coming out of his hand like it can. It was a time to pinch hit, a time to take a shot and the bullpen was rested. It wasn’t that tough of a decision, no.”
While he thought he would get the chance to hit, Samardzija couldn’t argue with the strategy, or the results from the pinch hitter.
“Obviously you put yourself in that situation when you throw a lot of pitches,” Samardzija said. “It’s better to take that decision out of their hands. But they made the right decision and hitters put the bat on the ball pretty good today and we got the win most importantly.”
Afterward a sarcastic Sveum was feeling pretty good about a plan that came together so well.
“Yeah, you think?” he said with a laugh. “I hate it when that happens.”