Cubs manager Dale Sveum talks about slugging percentage so much that reporters might tune him out.
But Sveum is right about the importance of slugging, and it came in pretty darn handy Sunday, when the Cubs beat the Houston Astros 14-6 on a steamy afternoon at Wrigley Field.
Contact information ( * required )
Cubs batters pounded out a season-high 16 hits, but it was the size that mattered.
Five doubles, 2 triples and 2 home runs combined with 7 singles to give the Cubs a lofty .795 slugging percentage on the day.
"It comes in handy more than it doesn't, that's for sure," said Sveum, whose club took two of three from the Astros and improved to 31-43. "As well as (the Astros); everything they did was doubles, the same thing.
"When you're hitting home runs and doubles and triples, you're going to score a lot of runs, and more importantly, adding on like we did."
The Cubs certainly did that. After jumping out to a 5-0 lead off Jordan Lyles, they watched nervously as the Astros clawed back within 5-3 against Jeff Samardzija. But Cubs batters tacked on 3 in the fifth, 4 in the seventh and 2 more in the eighth.
The guy enjoying the biggest day was center fielder Ryan Sweeney, who had a career-high 6 RBI with a pair of doubles and a home run.
"I just got into some good hitters counts," said Sweeney, who has been playing a lot more with regular center fielder David DeJesus on the disabled list. "We got some guys on base with second and third.
"The first couple weeks, I haven't been so good with runners in scoring position, but the last couple games I've just tried to be focused on that, get those guys in when we need to."
Sweeney wasn't alone in struggling with men in scoring position. The Cubs went 6-for-11 in that department Sunday, but they entered the game 1-for-16 over the previous four games and 18-for-108 over the previous 15.
Also joining in the fun was first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who hit his 12th home run and second in this series after having suffered a monthlong drought.
No one can say if hitting indeed is contagious, but Rizzo lockers next to Sweeney. "I think that was it today, just very contagious," Rizzo said. "We gave ourselves opportunities."
Samardzija was the big beneficiary. He has been a tough-luck starter at times, but he improved to 5-7 with a 3.39 ERA with 7 innings of 9-hit, 4-run (3 earned) ball on a difficult day to pitch. Samardzija did not walk a batter.
"I got through the lineup the first time through with a low pitch count," said Samardzija, who threw 92 for the day. "We got a bunch of runs from the guys hitting, which is great.
"In that situation, you don't need all your stuff. You just need to pound the zone and get some quick outs and get them back in the dugout. Just all around felt good today."