7/20 Extra bases
* Jeff Samardzija made two trips to Wrigley Field over the All-Star break to work with pitching coach Chris Bosio, and the sessions paid off on Friday. He gave up one run over 7 1/3 innings in leading the Cubs to a 3-1 victory over the Rockies.
“If you were to ask me all year how I felt about my mechanics, I’d say they were off all year, to tell you the truth, until today,” Samardzija told reporters in Denver, including MLB.com’s Ian McCue. “So I’m really excited to stop making adjustments and really just work on pitch selection and pitch location.
“I just attacked them and went at it and once I felt like I got them sped up, my splitter was good enough to get me through the rest of the inning,” Samardzija said.
The series-opening victory was the Cubs’ seventh in the last 10. The club is also improved 14 games over .500 when their starter earns a quality start.
Defense saved Chicago from throwing away the lead in the fourth. Michael Cuddyer punched a single to right after Troy Tulowitzki singled to a similar spot, and the Rockies shortstop was at third when a splitter skipped through the legs of catcher Wellington Castillo. But Castillo rifled a throw to Samardzija at home plate with enough velocity to tag out Tulowitzki and end the inning, the Cubs starter tumbling to the ground before walking to the dugout.
”That’s one of those things you don’t write up,” Samardzija said. “It’s just a freak play and it worked out in our favor.”
* Alfonso Soriano leads the Cubs with 17 home runs and 10 stolen bases, and he’s batting .319 (22-for-69) with five doubles, 10 homers, 20 RBI and a 1.169 OPS in his last 17 games since June 28. He has homered in five of his last 10 games, including multi-homer efforts July 6 vs. Pittsburgh and July 9 vs. the Angels.
Soriano is the fifth Cub to have entered the All-Star break with the team lead (or tied for the team lead) in both home runs and stolen bases, joining Augie Galan in 1937, George Altman in 1961, Ryne Sandberg in 1990, and Sammy Sosa in 1993, 1994 and 1998.
In addition to Soriano’s home run totals, he is 13 hits shy of becoming the 273rd player in Major League history to reach 2,000 hits. Only 15 active players have reached the milestone to date (Cleveland’s Jason Giambi has 1,991 hits).
* Junior Lake made his Major League debut Friday as the Cubs’ starting center fielder, going 3-for-4 with a double in his first plate appearance. Lake is the 44th player to appear for the Cubs this season, already just nine players shy of the franchise-record 53 players who appeared last year.
”Since I’ve been here that’s the first kid that’s come up and really looked like a Major Leaguer,” Dale Sveum said. “Was aggressive on the bases, did a great job. Swung the bat really nice.”
Before Friday’s game, Sveum thought about placing the speedy Lake in the leadoff spot. But that plan changed quickly when Lake told his skipper he planned to swing at the first pitch — and true to his words, he did — roping a double down the third-base line.
”I was just positive the whole time,” Lake said through a translator. “I think once you have that mindset going in the game, you’re ready for it and you have that kind of attitude, I think a lot of the things go your way.”