It’s Game 3 of the wraparound series between the Cubs and Pirates at Wrigley Field. The Pirates send lefty Jeff Locke against the Cubs and Chris Volstad today. Even though Josh Vitters homered off Locke last week in Pittsburgh, manager Dale Sveum has the left-handed hitting Luis Valbuena in the lineup.
“I wanted to see Valbuena a against this guy even though Vitters hit a home run off him the other day,” Sveum said. “Get Valbuena in there. The defense with Volstad’s groundballs and everything, I wanted to solidify that. This guy actually gives up ... his numbers are way worse against left-handers than right-handers anyway.”
I asked Dale what Vitters needs to work on.
“It’s the routine plays that seem to be giving him the most problem,” he said. “The spontaneous plays, he’s made all those, in great fashion, really. He’s got up and made good throws on the dives and the body-control plays, he’s done well on. He’s coming and gotten a lot better since the first day I saw him.”
We’ll see how that plays out over the winter, whether the Cubs go out and get a veteran third baseman with some pop in his bat and start Vitters at Iowa again.
Sveum did heap praise on Darwin Barney, who had a highlight-reel day Saturday. Barney’s consecutive-games errorless streak at second base is now at 130 straight games, 11 shy of the major-league record held by Placido Polanco of Detroit in 2007.
“That was as good a defensive day,” Sveum said. “It kept us in the ballgame. That’s one of those days as a second baseman, any defensive player that saved the pitcher this many pitches and made the pitcher relax instead of the leadoff guy getting on base. Stuff like that lifts the pitcher that’s on the mound. It just saves them how many pitches, numerous things, when you have those kind of defensive days.”
Sveum did manage a humorous jab at pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who has been shut down from pitching but who pinch ran Saturday. The manager was asked if he’d use Samardzija as a pinch hitter. He said that’s not likely because the Cubs have enough position players with the expanded roster. He then added: “Let him know it would be Travis Wood before him anyway. Or Rusin, if Rusin’s not pitching. He’s moved down the totem pole. No extra-base hits. All this promise. Now, you’ve got the starting-pitching stuff figured out. Now, he’s got to spend the winter hitting.
“I get on him every day.”
All in good fun, of course.
From the game notes: Alfonso Soriano is 1 homer and 1RBI away from reaching 30 homers and 100 RBI. He’d become the fifth Cub 36 or older to reach 30 homers and 100 RBI in a season, joining Hank Sauer, Andre Dawson, Fred McGriff and Moises Alou. Five Cubs have reached 100 RBI in a season at 36 or older since the stat became official in 1920. Besides the players listed, Ernie Banks, at 38, had 106 RBI in 1969.
The Cubs have used 12 starting pitchers this year, tied for third most in the NL with the Mets and behind San Diego (15) and Colorado (13) … The Cubs are facing a lefty for the fifth time in six games and eight of their last 15.
Streaking: Barney has a 10-game hitting streak, during which he's 12-for-35. Welington Castillo is at five games (6-for-17). Dave Sappelt has a five-gamer (9-for-18).