Saturday, May 11, 2013
Cubs must turn hits into runs
By Tood Karpovich
Special to ESPNChicago.com
WASHINGTON -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said the club simply has taken better advantage of its opportunities against the Washington Nationals pitching staff, which is among the best in the majors.
The Cubs hit seven doubles Friday night in the series opener yet managed just three runs, finishing 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Rizzo, who is tied for the National League with 19 extra-base hits, said the team did not do any extra film work prior to the series and has focused on being patient and getting more effective at-bats.
"Hit the ball hard, soft, whatever you can do to get on base," Rizzo said. "We hit seven doubles, but we didn't get the runs in that we should of. Against a team like Washington, we need to get those runs in."
On Friday, Nationals starter Ross Detwiler (2-3, 2.53 ERA) picked up the win by allowing just two runs on eight hits with two strikeouts and no walks. The Cubs face an even more daunting task Saturday against Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg is just 1-4 with 3.45 ERA this season, but those numbers are a bit deceiving because the Nationals have scored only 14 runs in his past seven starts. Rizzo said it was important to treat Strasburg like any other pitcher despite his pedigree.
"I've seen him quite a few times on TV," Rizzo said. "Big-name, high-profile pitcher. He's someone, in my opinion, that you go in and treat him like another right-hander and not get too hyped on his name and what he's done."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said his team is just going through a tough cycle by not performing with runners in scoring position. He said slumps can be contagious -- and, like Rizzo contends -- the key is patience.
"It's hard to score three runs on seven doubles," Sveum said.
Garza remains on schedule: Matt Garza, who is recovering from a strained lat muscle, is scheduled to pitch Saturday for Double-A affiliate Tennessee and will be limited to 60-65 pitches, according to Sveum.
Sveum was hopeful that limited pitch count would give Garza at least five innings of work. Garza made his second minor league rehab start Monday for Triple-A Des Moines and threw 54 pitches in four innings.
Sveum said there are no plans for Garza to return to the major league club after Saturday's outing.
"He has at least one more [rehab start]," Sveum said.
If all goes well, Garza could be back in the rotation for the May 21-23 series against the Pirates. However, Sveum added that Edwin Jackson, who entered the game 0-5 with a 6.39 ERA, will not be moved to the bullpen when Garza returns.
Trying to cut down on the errors: The Cubs have struggled defensively and lead the major leagues with 30 errors so far this season.
In Friday night's series opener against the Nationals, starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija committed a fielding error that led to two runs in an eventual 7-3 loss. The Cubs' 30 errors have also led to 19 unearned runs, tied with Houston for the most in the majors.
"Half of our errors are from our pitchers," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's incredibly strange. Between the errors by pitchers, second in [the] National League in walks and hit batters, that just adds up to too many people on base. The bottom line, I've been saying, is when we make that mistake, we can't seem to make a pitch after that."
The defensive lapses have been especially problematic over the past week during which the Cubs have committed at least one error in a season-high seven consecutive games -- the most since 2011.
"We have really good athletes on the mound, so hopefully it's over with and that's the last we're gonna see of it," Sveum said.
Changes to the lineup: Sveum made some tweaks to the lineup for Saturday's game against Strasburg.
Center fielder David DeJesus was back to his normal leadoff spot against righties in place of Starlin Castro. On Friday, Sveum said Castro will be the primary leadoff hitter against lefties.
Also, Luis Valbuena started at third and batted sixth in place of Cody Ransom, who went 1-for-3 the previous night against Detwiler. DeJesus also started in center field instead of Ryan Sweeney, who went 2-for-3 on Friday night.