Who knew baseball players could work in symbolism as well as they do cliché?
When asked about the range of emotions during Friday’s up-down-up 4-3 victory over the Giants at Wrigley Field, two of them answered the same way.
“It’s unbelievable, man,” said Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, who doubled home David DeJesus with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth after the Cubs frittered away a 2-0 lead and trailed 3-2. “The sun was out in the seventh inning. It started raining a little bit like in the eighth inning with two outs. It stopped raining. It started raining in the ninth inning and stopped.
“It’s unbelievable. You just go to home plate and try to win the game.”
DeJesus also stopped to smell the raindrops.
“It was tough,” DeJesus said. “It started getting cold out there, rainy.”
Yes, the Cubs had sunshine on a rainy day, not to mention a much-needed victory that left them at 4-6 when a blown save by new closer Kyuji Fujikawa could have left them at 3-7.
Fujikawa came on in the ninth and gave up 3 runs, wrecking the second straight stellar start by Carlos Villanueva — who had a potential victory squandered last Saturday night in Atlanta by erstwhile closer Carlos Marmol. The Cubs lost that game, but Fujikawa ended up with his first major-league victory despite the blown save. He also got the obligatory beer shower afterward.
Fujikawa didn’t have command of his fastball, but he seemed heartened by the support of his teammates.
“I really appreciate that, and to answer that, I probably need to get my confidence in and continue pitching tomorrow,” he said.
Manager Dale Sveum said Fujikawa remains the team’s closer, although Friday’s pitch count of 30 might keep him out of Saturday’s noon game.
Once again, the focus should have been on another good start from Villanueva. In 14 innings pitched over his 2 starts, he has given up 9 hits and 1 run for an ERA of 0.64.
“After they came back in the ninth, all we needed was a win,” said Villanueva, who worked 7 shutout innings, giving up 3 hits. “I’m happy with (the team) getting the ‘W.’ Personal stats, whatever, they’ll come. Keep doing my job and they’ll come, eventually.
“But the atmosphere in our clubhouse right now, I wouldn’t change that for the world.”
The Cubs got their 2-0 lead on a third-inning homer by DeJesus and a fifth-inning liner into the left-center field bleachers by Castro.
Villanueva exited for lefty James Russell, who extended his scoreless streak to 5 appearances by getting out of eighth-inning trouble with a double-play grounder.
Fujikawa, however, wound up facing seven batters in the ninth, giving up a pair of doubles, a single and hitting a batter. Brandon Belt’s 2-run double put the Giants ahead.
The rally that got Fujikawa off the hook began with a pinch home run by backup catcher Dioner Navarro against Giants closer Sergio Romo.
Villanueva said the Cubs are fully behind Fujikawa.
“I told his interpreter, ‘Tell him I believe in him and we believe in him and that he’s going to be fine,’” Villanueva said. “He’s done it (closed games) a million times before. He’s very apologetic. He feels bad. We can tell, but we need him. As long as we communicate that to him, the times things aren’t going as well is why we’re teammates and we’re a team. We love Fuji, and I know we’ll have him do well.”
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