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posted: 4/18/2013 6:32 PM

Sveum savors some slugging

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  • Starter Carlos Villanueva earned his first win as a Cub, lowering his ERA to 1.29.

      Starter Carlos Villanueva earned his first win as a Cub, lowering his ERA to 1.29.
    Associated Press

  • The Cubs' Alfonso Soriano, right, is greeted at home by Nate Schierholtz after Soriano's first homer of the season Thursday against the Rangers at Wrigley Field.

      The Cubs' Alfonso Soriano, right, is greeted at home by Nate Schierholtz after Soriano's first homer of the season Thursday against the Rangers at Wrigley Field.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Cubs got one thing Thursday they've been getting all year -- and another that has been in short supply.

Carlos Villanueva turned in his third quality start of the season, going 7 innings in a 6-2 victory over the Texas Rangers as the teams dodged the worst of the day's wet weather.

The starting pitching has been fine for the most part, so what had manager Dale Sveum -- a hitting coach by trade -- most happy after the game was that the Cubs put up some slugging percentage.

Of the Cubs' 13 hits, 6 were doubles, 1 was a triple and 2 were home runs. That figures to a robust .750 slugging percentage.

Sveum may sound like an old-school baseball rat when he talks, but he knows the value of looking beyond the basic stats.

For most of this early season, Sveum has hammered away on the need for the Cubs to hammer away at the plate and add to the slugging percentage, which was 11th in the National League entering the game.

"It's hard to string hits together, so you need the slugging percentage to score 1 here or there or obviously have a couple guys on to have a double and score both of them," said Sveum, whose team left for Milwaukee with a 5-9 record. "Obviously, we know what home runs do. Slugging percentage is key.

"It's not batting average. It's the on-base and the slugging percentage."

Sabermetricians among Cubs fans should rejoice at those words, and it's really pretty simple: get on base and come up with extra-base hits, and you usually score a lot of runs.

Among those going the extra base was David DeJesus with a triple and a double. Alfonso Soriano hit his first homer and drove in his first run of the year in the Cubs' 4-run third inning. That came right after Anthony Rizzo hit a 2-run homer to right-center, a 475-foot homer that measured as the longest in the majors this year, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

"I'm sure that won't last very long," Rizzo said of the distance mark. "There are a lot of good hitters in this league. It's one of those things. I got a good swing, good pitch to hit, didn't try to do too much with it and got a good result."

On the pitching end, Villanueva finally got something to show for all his good work in April. He earned his first victory as a Cub. His record is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA. Poor bullpen work had cost Villanueva wins in his previous 2 starts.

"It was a good game, especially how this day started," he said. "Yesterday, today, it was ugly. We had no idea. We heard yesterday we weren't going to get the game in. It was going to be tough. I tried to stay with my guard up just in case. You never want to drop your guard and all of a sudden have to go, 'Hey, 20 minutes, the game is starting,' and I'm just sitting at my locker and not thinking about the game."

Cubs starting pitchers have a record of 3-7, but they have a collective ERA of 3.15. Villanueva wasn't bemoaning the fact that he could be 3-0.

"You know what?" he said, "My second start, we actually won the game (over the Giants). So I was happy about that. Like I said, personal stats will happen. What do I gain from being upset if I don't get a win? Nobody benefits from that. This isn't a game to be selfish about. Obviously, everybody wants to get the win every time, but it just doesn't happen that way. Every time somebody's out there who comes in relief, I'm sure they want to get a quick 1-2-3 inning, but it just doesn't happen that way all the time.

"But a game like today, it's smooth. (James) Russell came in, and (Carlos) Marmol had a good outing. It's just how you draw it up. It was nice. It was clean. We're going to Milwaukee with a 'W.'"

Now there's a stat everybody likes.

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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