Yesterday Robin Ventura needed a warm body to toss out on the mound and Don Cooper couldn’t be pried from his Ho Hos long enough so Zach Stewart took his place.
Zach Stewart is married to a lovely woman named Diana and he was a star for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2011. That is all you really need to know about him.
Mostly he gets used in relief, where his repertoire of 2 1/2 pitches serves him well. Seriously, he is an above average reliever. That does not make him a good starter.
It does make him a viable warm body.
With John Danks down and Peavy and Sale way over thier pitch llimits right now something had to give. And that something was last night’s game.
Carrie Muskat was finally able to enjoy a Cubs game so we’ll let her share the joys she felt watching the drubbing.
Trust me, she’s earned the right.
The Cubs’ revamped lineup Monday night produced season highs in runs, hits and home runs, but there was one problem, as far as Matt Garza was concerned. The pitcher wasn’t in the hitting lineup. After all, they had to play by American League rules at the White Sox home park.
“I was a little upset,” Garza said, smiling.
They didn’t need his bat. Luis Valbuena hit a three-run home run, Bryan LaHair and Starlin Castro each hit two-run shots, and Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto each hit solo homers to power the Cubs to a 12-3 Interleague victory over the White Sox.
LaHair moved from first base to right field and David DeJesus shifted to center, which is a configuration the Cubs will likely stick with against right-handers as they prepare for the arrival of top prospect Anthony Rizzo.
“One way or another, depending on what we do at first base, I think LaHair’s going to be out there quite a bit with DeJesus in center field against right-handed pitchers,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
“It worked,” Garza said, “so let’s keep it going.”
Garza (3-5) picked up his first win since April 29. The right-hander gave up three runs on five hits over six innings and struck out six. He did serve up home runs to A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko, but those were off good pitches. Good hitters can hit good pitches.
“A lot of its on my shoulders,” Garza said about not having a win in his seven previous outings. “My job is to hold the lead when I get it, and if I don’t have a lead, keep them where they’re at until we get it. That’s my job and that’s what I try to do.”
Before the game, Sveum admitted he was concerned about keeping the White Sox sluggers in check. Turns out, the Cubs were the ones digging the long ball.
With two outs in the third, Castro singled and LaHair started the hit parade with his 13th home run, golfing a pitch from Zach Stewart (1-2) over the wall in right-center to take a 2-0 lead.
Tony Campana singled to open the fifth, stole second, and one out later, tallied on Castro’s homer, which came one day too late. The shortstop had tripled, doubled and singled on Sunday, and needed a home run to complete the cycle. One out later, Soriano launched a 1-0 pitch from Stewart 440 feet to straightaway center to open a 5-0 lead.
Soriano now has the most home runs and RBIs as the Cubs’ designated hitter in franchise history, hitting his fourth homer and raising his RBIs total to 10. It’s a shame the Cubs couldn’t play the Tigers in Detroit and the Red Sox in Boston.
“They were swinging it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It was a night [the ball] was carrying, and they put it on the barrel a lot. Yesterday’s [loss to the Dodgers in extra innings] was one that stings. Today, you just get beat. You can rally back and come back tomorrow.”
The Cubs weren’t finished. Soto, activated from the disabled list on Monday, connected with two outs in the sixth to open a 6-1 lead. The Cubs scored six runs in the seventh on RBI singles by Soriano, Steve Clevenger and Darwin Barney, and Valbuena’s homer, his second in five games since he was called up from Triple-A Iowa.
“That was obviously, no doubt, our best offensive production of the year—slugging percentage, quality at-bats, hitting the fastball, taking advantage of all the mistakes they made throughout the whole lineup,” Sveum said. “I think everybody had a pretty good day today, one way or another.”
That would include LaHair, whose was tested almost immediately in his first start in right field. Gordon Beckham lined a ball to right and LaHair grabbed it on the run at the warning track.
“I kind of had a feeling I was going to get a ball early in the game,” LaHair said. “It always works that way. I got a good read and got a good jump and took a good angle and was able to make the play.”
Soto was almost giddy postgame. He had not played with the team since mid-May because of a knee injury.
“I feel really good coming back,” Soto said. “It’s good to win, to come back, win, be with the boys. I really missed that. I never take stuff for granted and you never want to be hurt, but I missed it.”
The White Sox swept the first meeting between the two teams at Wrigley Field in May. This was payback. It’s the first time this season the Cubs have hit five home runs in a game, and they set season highs in hits (15) and runs.
“It was awesome,” Garza said. “These guys have been playing their butts off every day. You can’t ask for anything more. Tonight was awesome, especially with the wind almost knocking you down between pitches. It was awesome to see that kind of outburst against our guys and let’s see if we can keep it going.”
First off, hats off to the Cubs. That wasn’t just a win that was a whooping.
What will happen next on the Northside is anyone’s guess. Is Dempster playing possum to purposely lower his trade value so that he can stay with his beloved Cubbies? Will Epstein go on a ten day bender and bring back Milton Bradley? Will Dale Sveum have to be taken out by a S.W.A.T. team the next time Castro sees a bunny in his mind?
Southside fans, all three of them, are clamoring for K-Dub to make a bold move. To sign Garza or Dempster or Cy Young or someone. He may not have to. Those of us who have been paying attention have been paying attention to a kid named Simon Castro. His ERA of 3.60 is a touch higher than you’d like in 2A, but he has a crappy defensive team behind him. His 5/1 SO to W ratio is another matter. Teams will take that every day. They will also take his high 90’s fastball and low 80’s change. More importantly, according to those who have seen him up close, he is completely unflappable.
That’s not to say he shouldn’t look at a deal if it presents itself, just to note that he has a legitimate option already in house.
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