Bottoms up. And boy, did the Cubs need that one.
After playing two horrendous games in Cincinnati, the Cubs looked down and out heading into Florida, but the bottom part of the batting order helped them to a 7-5 victory over the Marlins after they blew yet another lead.
Pinch hitter Reed Johnson, batting for pitcher Ryan Dempster, hit a 2-run homer to tie the game at 5-5 in the sixth inning after the Marlins put a 4-spot on Dempster the previous half inning.
No. 6 hitter Marlon Byrd went first-pitch fishing in the eighth, hitting a leadoff homer to break the tie. And pinch hitter Jeff Baker hit a one-out RBI fielder’s-choice grounder to score the speedy Tony Campana with an insurance run.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak that had the Cubs’ manager muttering, especially after the two tough losses at Cincinnati.
On Wednesday, Mike Quade got to see how the other half lives.
“We took advantage of a few mistakes, instead of the other way around,” Quade said, noting that the Cubs capitalized on a couple of Florida errors in a 2-run fifth inning.
The road to respectability will be a long one for the Cubs (18-23), if they ever get there, but Wednesday’s win seemed a relief.
Before the game, Quade fell back on the cliché of the Cubs trying to do too much in recent days.
“I hate the term, but I think it applies,” Quade told reporters. “Stay within yourself. That’s my sense now. I think I’ve gone from several days of saying ‘Look, we need to make sure we’re concentrating on these little things,’ to ‘OK, we’re concentrating on them, so just relax and do it.’ I hope that’s what it takes.”
Instead of letting their starting pitcher down again, the Cubs picked up Dempster after he turned a 3-1 lead into a 5-3 deficit in the fifth.
Johnson’s homer improved his average lifetime against the Marlins to .425 (17-for-40).
“There have been tons of games throughout the whole year we felt like we’ve just given away,” said Johnson, a nice role player this season. “If we can clean things up, we could go on a pretty good run.”
Hitting more home runs also would help. The Cubs have been near the bottom of the league in that category, but Byrd jumped on a first-pitch offering from Edward Mujica in the eighth.
“We’ve been doing small ball,” Byrd said. “At the same time we need to put up some power numbers. You need to get pitchers worried about the long ball, not just singles. When we start adding that to our game, it’s going to make us a better hitting team.”
Speaking of the bottom of the order, Koyie Hill was back behind the plate again. He wound up scoring 3 runs and had 3 hits and a sacrifice.
“It seems like when a team executes, it tends to take a little of the pressure off,” Hill said.
Jeff Samardzija picked up the win in relief to improve to 3-0 and set a career best for wins.
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