Expecting perfection from this bunch of Cubs is totally unrealistic.
Let’s just say they were imperfectly perfect Sunday, and that was good enough to get them a 4-3 victory in 11 innings over the Pittsburgh Pirates at steamy Wrigley Field.
Pinch hitter Dioner Navarro’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly with nobody out finally won it for the Cubs, who were one strike away from winning in regulation.
But closer Kevin Gregg gave up a two-out homer in the top of the ninth to Starling Marte to allow the Pirates to tie the game at 3-3.
That’s only looking at the small picture. The bigger picture was that the beleaguered, but newly configured, Cubs bullpen worked 7 innings and gave up just 2 runs in relief of starter Carlos Villanueva.
He made his first start since May 14 and was pressed back into starting duty because of last week’s trade of Scott Feldman to Baltimore.
“It was not what the doctor ordered, another two-out, two-strike homer on bullpen day,” said manager Dale Sveum, who could chuckle about it after a victory. “But they did a great job.”
The win went to Matt Guerrier, who worked 2 scoreless innings for the second straight day. He came over last week in the trade that sent Carlos Marmol to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Oh, it’s nice,” Guerrier said. “With Villa being on a short pitch count, we had to kind of use everybody today. Gregger’s been so good. It’s just one of those things. You go out there and try to do what you can to get outs and keep them there long enough to get a win.”
The Cubs’ perfectly imperfect day was personified by none other than second baseman Darwin Barney, the Gold Glover.
Barney committed his first error of the season (after 71 games without a miscue) on a grounder by Garrett Jones leading off the 10th. Barney was well into right field on a shift, and the ball may have snaked on the grass.
But he recovered to turn a double play on the next batter, Pedro Alvarez. Russell Martin then hit the ball off Guerrier’s body, but Barney tracked it down and threw him out. Barney also started a double play in the 11th.
“It’s almost like, when you’re young, a lot of the things you tell kids, once something like that happens, the next play is the most important play,” Barney said.
It’s also almost like fans and media expect perfection from Barney.
“I don’t know if it’s wrong, but I expect it out of myself,” he said. “I’ll probably take a few balls out there the next time we have a team that has shifty hitters. We’ll see. It’s a play I can make, and those things happen.”
It has been a far from perfect year for Scott Hairston, but his seventh-inning solo homer (his eighth of the season) gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead. Then came Gregg’s blown save and the rescues by Guerrier and Navarro.
“I watch the pitchers; I prepare myself well,” said Navarro, who is 6-for-14 with 2 homers and 4 RBI as a pinch hitter this year. “I just go out there and have fun.
“Ninety percent of the time you pinch hit is in a key situation. I kind of like to be in that situation. You give your best against me. I love the challenge every time I get the opportunity.”
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