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updated: 4/24/2012 11:36 PM

Cubs' LaHair gets job done this time with power

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  • The Cubs celebrate their victory over the Cardinals on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.

      The Cubs celebrate their victory over the Cardinals on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.
    Associated Press

 
 

Much has been made in recent years about the Cubs' approach, or lack thereof, to hitting.

Not since those glory days of 2008 has this team valued patience at the plate and on-base percentage.

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Things change slowly.

This current bunch, even under the leadership wizardry of team president Theo Epstein, is still pretty much a free-swinging team.

But selective aggressiveness can be a good thing.

Take Bryan LaHair, for instance. In Monday's 3-2 victory over St. Louis, he drew a 12-pitch walk to key a ninth-inning comeback.

In the ninth inning of Tuesday's 3-2 victory over the Cardinals in 10 innings, LaHair hit the first pitch for a game-tying homer off lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski.

"That was huge, his first hit off a lefty this year, and it was a big one," said manager Dale Sveum, whose team improved to 6-12 and assured itself of its first series win of the season.

"That was our first home run, I think in 10 games, so that was huge. That was nice to see another great at-bat for him, a nice swing on a ball."

The game-winner was a hard-hit, one-hop single past second baseman Tyler Greene by Alfonso Soriano that scored speedy Tony Campana with the winning run.

Selectivity, plate discipline and slugging percentage were the hot topics before this one got started, with everybody still buzzing about LaHair's walk the night before.

"I think I developed that kind of game three or four years ago," said this career journeyman who is getting his first real shot in the big leagues at 29. "I really started grinding at-bats out. Before, I was just a free swinger. I didn't have much of a plan.

"I was just trying to go deep and stuff like that. I still put up numbers, but I'm more consistent now. I know what I want to do. I simplify it as much as I can. I just try to get a good pitch and hit it hard."

But pitchers beware, as Rzepczynski found out Tuesday.

"If they throw me a cookie first pitch 10 at-bats in a row, I'm going to swing at it," he said.

LaHair's home run ended a serious homer drought for the Cubs, who hadn't had one since April 13, when LaHair himself hit a grand slam at St. Louis. It also got beleaguered closer Carlos Marmol off the hook for a blown save that ruined a nice night of pitching by Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija, who worked 6 scoreless.

Marmol gave up a 2-run homer to Matt Holliday with two outs in the eighth with Sveum trying to get a four-out save.

"He's been pitching good," Sveum said. "To me, that's just a case of a 2-2 slider that one of the strongest guys in baseball hit for a home run.

"Did he do anything wrong or whatever? No, it was just another guy on the other side of the fence making a lot of money who does that quite often."

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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