Outfielder Joe Mather and catcher Steve Clevenger each got a rare start on Saturday afternoon and made the most of it. The two combined to go 5-for-8 with two runs scored and two RBIs as the Cubs snapped a six-game losing streak with a 6-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
“It’s not easy to do, that’s the first thing you need understand as a bench guy,” Mather said of getting infrequent starts. “Reed Johnson (who doubled in his lone at-bat) has been great at relaying that to myself and Clev. It’s important to do well and have good at bats. Production will come, but the most important thing is to have good at-bats.”
With the game tied at one, Mather got things going for the Cubs in their big second inning. With one down, a man on second and the pitcher on deck, Mather doubled into the left-field gap, driving in Clevenger and giving them a lead they would never relinquish. After starting pitcher Paul Maholm struck out, the Cubs scored three more runs in the inning, capped off by Starlin Castro’s run-scoring triple.
“That was a big hit, Mather coming through there with the pitcher coming up next,” said manager Dale Sveum. “Kind of started a snowball effect.”
Three weeks into the season, Clevenger has delivered in nearly every opportunity that he’s been presented (.588 batting average in 17 at-bats and tied for the team lead with four doubles), but don’t expect him to become the starting catcher anytime soon. Sveum said Geovany Soto will be back behind the plate on Sunday and Clevenger added that he isn’t worried about trying to get more playing time.
“I really don’t try to focus on that too much,” Clevenger said. “I just come to the ballpark, get in my work and when Dale needs me to be ready, I’ll be ready. Whether it’s taking ground balls somewhere or whatever, I’ll be ready.”
Maholm (one run and five strikeouts in six innings pitched) had nothing but praise for Clevenger’s work behind the plate. Maholm had a shaky start to the game, as the Cubs fell behind 1-0 with Maholm allowing three of the first four batters to reach. After that, however, Maholm and Clevenger seemed to get on the same page and everything clicked from there.
“We got in a groove for a while where I really wasn’t shaking him off,” Maholm said. “He does all his studies on the hitters, he does everything you can ask for. Obviously he’s a young guy and he’s learning the hitters, but I think the biggest thing is he knows my strengths, we worked with it today and it worked out.”
E-6… make that 7: Castro made errors six and seven on Saturday, putting him on an impossible pace of 81 errors for the season. Prior to the game, Castro discussed his issues on the defensive side of the ball.
“Sometimes when I make errors, it’s tough for me,” Castro said. “[I think] that’s not gonna happen because I work too much on my defense. But I’m still working, concentrating, I’ll be good on my defense too.”
Sveum said he’s not going to talk to a player after every mistake, but did notice a mechanical mistake on his first error that he’ll discuss with Castro. Sveum gave him a pass on the second miscue, noting that Drew Stubbs -- one of the fastest players in all of baseball -- was running and Castro recovered quickly after he caught a bad hop on a sharply hit grounder.