Sunday, July 28, 2013
Schierholtz continues torrid stretch
By Joe Stiglich Special to ESPNChicago.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Nate Schierholtz appears locked into quite a zone right now, which is probably for the best.
The Chicago Cubs' right fielder might be the next player packing his bags and leaving the team before Wednesday's non-waiver trade deadline. But with his name swirling in trade rumors, Schierholtz is blocking out any distractions and enjoying one of the most torrid hitting streaks of his major league career.
Nate Schierholtz is congratulated by teammates after his ninth-inning home run Saturday. There's a chance he could be leaving the Cubs soon via trade.
Schierholtz homered off San Francisco Giants All-Star closer Sergio Romo to snap a scoreless tie in the top of the ninth Saturday and lead Chicago to a 1-0 victory. That it came against the Giants -- the team that traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies at last year's deadline -- had to be sweet for Schierholtz, who grew up in nearby Danville, Calif.
But it's merely an extension of the damage he has been doing of late.
Schierholtz is 10-for-22 over his past seven games, which included the first five-RBI game of his career Wednesday at Arizona. He has notched seven extra-base hits and nine RBIs through nine games of this 10-game trip.
Schierholtz said he was shocked when the Giants dealt him to Philadelphia last July 31 as part of the deal that brought Hunter Pence to San Francisco. But that experience prepared him for the speculation that surrounds him as this year's deadline approaches.
"When it's your first time, you never expect it. Then it happens," Schierholtz said. "But I love it here. Ideally, I don't want to go anywhere. I want to be part of the future [in Chicago]."
Just as the front office is signaling a rebuild by dealing several veteran players -- Alfonso Soriano was the latest, going to the New York Yankees on Friday -- the Cubs are starting to roll. They've gone 18-13 since June 21 and are 5-4 on this 10-game trip that has taken them to Colorado, Arizona and San Francisco.
Schierholtz has been a big part of that, and considering how much the reigning World Series champion Giants are struggling, San Francisco fans might be wishing he was still wearing orange and black.
The outfielder got hearty ovations Friday and Saturday from the AT&T Park crowd.
"I always loved playing here," Schierholtz said. "I couldn't ask for a better reception. It's something I really take to heart."
Rusin's career night: Cubs left-hander Chris Rusin delivered the best start of his big league career Saturday, going seven innings and surrendering just three hits.
He didn't allow his first baserunner until Pence walked with one out in the fifth inning.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Rusin had his sinker working, and that contributed to lots of ground-ball outs.
"For the most part I was able to control my two-seam," Rusin said. "I kept it low and kept my defense on their toes."
Escape act: The Cubs escaped bases-loaded jams in the eighth and ninth to keep the Giants off the board.
Most impressive was Pedro Strop's high-wire act in the eighth. He failed to get an out on back-to-back bunts he fielded, and found himself in a bases-loaded, no-outs jam. But Strop got Nos. 3 and 4 hitters Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval to each hit into forceouts at home, then he got Pence swinging on a nasty slider to end the inning.
Closer Kevin Gregg, protecting the one-run lead in the ninth, loaded the bases with one out but coaxed a home-to-first double play from Tony Abreu to end it.
Sveum raved about Strop's work.
"That started out as an ugly defensive inning but turned out really good," the manager said. "Strop ... that's what stuff does. When you have stuff and you need to strike guys out with guys on third base and less than two outs ... that was one of our most exciting innings of the year."