4/29 Cubs 5, Padres 3
The Cubs may be a little unconventional these days as far as their closer is concerned, but it’s working. Kevin Gregg picked up his fourth save, Darwin Barney hit a pair of RBI doubles, and Scott Hairston and Cody Ransom smacked back-to-back home runs to lift the Cubs to a 5-3 victory Monday night over the Padres for their fourth win in the last five games.
Gregg, who signed after being released by the Dodgers April 15, now has converted a save in each of his last four outings. However, manager Dale Sveum refuses to name him or anyone else the closer.
“For whatever reason, guys are getting the job done and getting big outs when we have to get outs,” Sveum said of his collection of relievers. “That’s the key is making pitches when you need to.”
Michael Bowden picked up the win in relief of starter Jeff Samardzija, who struck out eight in five innings to raise his season total to 47, among the tops in the NL. It’s the second most K’s in Cubs history in the month of April, behind Matt Garza, who fanned 51 in 2011. Samardzija now is 0-4 with a no decision since his Opening Day victory over the Pirates. He had a tough time getting a grip on the ball, still bothered by right index finger that he cut trying to make a bare-handed grab in last start.
“Too many walks,” Samardzija said. “You can’t put that many guys on for free. Just pitching in a lot of situations where you have to battle and make bigger pitches makes it harder on yourself.”
The Cubs’ 6-7-8 hitters provided the offense. Ransom and Barney also made solid defensive plays, including a running bare-handed grab by Ransom on Jedd Gyorko’s grounder with the bases loaded in the seventh. Ransom was able to get the Padres’ second baseman by a half step.
“You take a million ground balls and hope to have the opportunity to catch it and throw it,” Ransom said. “Checked swing, and it was a little strange off the bat and it came off a little harder than I thought it would and made it to me and luckily for us, Gyorko didn’t run that well.”
“That bare-hand play saved the game for us,” Barney said.
All 25 of the Cubs’ games this season have been decided by four runs or fewer, a franchise record, and second most to start a season all-time in the Major Leagues. The 1914 Tigers have the longest streak at 33 games.
The Cubs are ready to turn the calendar. It’s been a tough April.
“Let’s be honest — we’ve played some really good teams in the first month,” Samardzija said. “You’ve got the defending World Champs [the Giants], you’ve got the defending [American League West champs, the Rangers], you’ve got the Brew Crew at their place, and Cincinnati. We knew we’d have to come out and be on top of our game in April.
“It could easily be flipped around and we could be 15-10 instead of 10-15,” he said. “They say you don’t win or lose the season in April. I feel we’re good where we are. … Let’s get a little momentum going and see what happens from there.”
— Carrie Muskat