- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO – It simply doesn’t happen often. A player hits a grand slam and then bunts for a base hit in the same game.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Chicago Cubs outfielder Junior Lake is just the fourth player in five years to accomplish that feat. He went deep in the first inning of the Cubs' 8-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday for his first career grand slam. He followed that up two innings later with a bunt hit, his seventh of the season. That’s the fifth most in the majors -- and Lake has played less than half a season.
“You’re either savvy or you’re not a very selfish player, because it’s hard to go up there after a grand slam and not [be] thinking about two homers and seven ribbies in your pocket,” manager Dale Sveum said after the game.
Maybe Lake is a little of both. As one of the first real position player prospects to make it to the big leagues in the Theo Epstein regime, Lake is showing he knows how to play the game the right way. Maybe it was too unselfish of him to bunt, considering there were men on first and second and none out with the Cubs leading 5-2 and the bottom of the order coming up. But Sveum isn’t one to take away that kind of team play.
“It’s nice to see a guy thinking about other things than his own stats,” Sveum proclaimed.
As for Lake, he continues to show the baseball world that he can’t be defined by just one label. A converted infielder, he’s getting better every day in the outfield. And his power is being matched by his ability to run – and bunt. His attitude isn’t bad, either.
“I know I can hit another homer, but it’s not about me, it’s about the team,” Lake said through an interpreter. “I think I help the team better by bunting…That helped for the team. I have confidence in my team hitting behind me.”
Lake simply credits “hard wok” for his bunting prowess. His power? That has more to do with his size and swing.
“Happy I got my first grand slam of my career, but also that we got the win,” Lake said after hitting his fifth home run.
Sveum was quick to point out that unselfish play usually leads to good things. Two batters after Lake’s bunt, pitcher Chris Rusin drove in two runs with a single.
“For some reason, when you do those things you end up scoring a couple of runs out of it, too,” Sveum said. “I didn’t know he was such a good bunter. His work ethic has been tremendous. He’s done a really, really good job since he’s been here.”
So the “Lake Show” continues as Lake raised his average back up to .299 with his two-hit day. His running catch of a foul ball over the bullpen mound wasn’t bad either. But it’s that unselfish bunt play that has the lasting memory for his manager.
“It shows he has some savvy to him about winning type baseball,” Sveum said.
10hJacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information