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Saturday, April 13, 2013
Cubs fail against a lefty, again

By Jesse Rogers

It’s becoming a trend for the Chicago Cubs. A left-handed starter takes the mound against them, and they produce little on offense.

This time, it was San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner who shut them down for six innings before finally giving in to pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro in the Cubs' 3-2 defeat on Saturday.

Navarro homered, but it’s the starting nine that needs help. It’s the third time this season the Cubs have been nearly shut out by a southpaw. The starting group -- consisting of at least seven right-handed hitters -- has produced exactly one run in those three games.

“You also have to look at who we faced,” Scott Hairston said after the game. “Those guys are known to have really good stuff.”

Wandy Rodriguez of Pittsburgh, Mike Minor of Atlanta and now Bumgarner do have good stuff, but one run combined against them? In three games?

Maybe manager Dale Sveum needs to stay with his regular core instead of loading up on the righties.

“These guys are on the team for a reason,” Sveum said of Scott Hairston and others. “Everybody has their role, and right now, Hairston is going to play against lefties, [Dave] Sappelt is going to play against lefties. We’re going to put the best lineup out there to be able to slug and do things.”

Add Brent Lillibridge to the list that starts against left-handers as well. The Cubs are hitting .200 against them, with an on-base percentage of .259, which rank 11th and 12th in the National League, respectively.

Sveum often mentions slugging percentage in explaining why he sits the lefties against lefty pitchers. Sappelt and Hairston, in particular, do have better percentages than those they play in favor of.

But is it the right move to sit the second-leading hitter -- Nate Schierholtz -- on a weak hitting team or a hot hitter in David DeJesus? DeJesus homered and had three hits just the day before.

“These [lefty pitchers] are the type of guys you have to pop a three run home run to beat them,” Sveum said in explaining his righty lineup. “It makes the pitcher work that much harder when runners are in scoring position.”

But only if those righties do something with their chances. It’s a small sample size, but Sappelt is hitting .071, Hairston .100 and Lillibridge .042.

“Everybody tries to do an adjustment, especially with a lefty,” Starlin Castro said. “Every right-hander [thinks] it’s easy to hit left-handers, but it’s not.”

Sveum lamented the chances the righties had early in the game.

“We have a chance to take the lead a couple times before they scored, which changes the game around,” he said. “We didn’t put the ball in play when guys were in scoring position.”

Yet Sveum vows to stick with his right-handed lineup against the southpaws. He might need to re-think that strategy.

Quotable:

“Major league players need to make those plays. That’s the bottom line.”
-Sveum, on recent defensive miscues

“That’s two games in a row. That’s unacceptable. That’s on me.”
-Jeff Samardzija, on walking the opposing pitcher in each of his past two starts.