Mike Olt produces off Masahiro Tanaka
May, 21, 2014
By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- Lost in the hoopla of beating New York Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka might be a game that young Chicago Cubs slugger Mike Olt looks back on as a turning point.
Olt produced in big situations twice -- with a man on third and one out, then again with a bases-loaded walk late -- in the Cubs’ 6-1 win over the Yankees on Tuesday. All this after striking out three times in April when the Cubs fell to Tanaka 3-0 in the Bronx.
It was arguably Olt’s best day at the plate, and he didn’t hit a home run.
“I got into a lot of situations that definitely didn’t require [a home run],” Olt said. “I’m starting to figure that out. I’m trying to take what they’re giving me, shorten up and do a job.”
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports"I was happy to slow the game down and get the job done," Mike Olt said after his successful second session against Masahiro Tanaka.
He did just that against Tanaka this time around. After striking out in his first at-bat in the second inning, he came up in the fourth with Luis Valbuena on third and one out with the Cubs leading 1-0. Tanaka needed a strikeout -- and not long ago, he would have gotten it against Olt in that situation. But Olt lined a single through the pulled-in infield to put the Cubs up 2-0.
“When I get in these situations, I want to take a step back and not try and do too much,” Olt said.
Two innings later he got his chance again as Valbuena stood on third with none out. He cranked a sacrifice fly to center for RBI No. 2 on the night.
“I was happy to slow the game down and get the job done,” Olt said.
He saved his best for last, in his opinion. With the Cubs leading 5-1, Olt came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning. It turned out to be his favorite at-bat of the night, as he walked on five pitches against Preston Claiborne for his third RBI.
“The walk, for sure,” Olt said. “In certain situations, I might get real big on a 3-1 count. That was a good one for me.”
The Cubs struggled mightily against Tanaka in April, but they succeeded this time around -- including Olt, who has 23 RBIs, which is tied for the team lead.
“Seeing [Tanaka] twice does help,” Olt said.
But when the Cubs face a pitcher Olt hasn’t batted against this year, he won’t be the wiser, like he was for Tanaka. Maybe if Olt’s batting average continues to rise, his everyday playing status might become more permanent. It’s "up" to .183 after a 1-for-2 night.
“I have to keep learning in these situations,” Olt said. “I know it’ll come.”