Junior Lake continues to make his case
Add Junior Lake's name to the list of intriguing possibilities for the Cubs next year.
Before Friday's 8-5 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field, Lake was out in left field taking flyballs launched out of a contraption by coach Dave McKay.
But it was on offense where Lake showed an array of skills. In the Cubs' 5-run first inning, he did some launching of his own, sending a 1-0 pitch from Kyle Lohse into the left-field bleachers for his first career grand slam.
In the third, Lake came up with runners on first and second with nobody out. Seeing the infield back, he bunted for a hit -- and 2 runs scored in the inning.
"I still do play my game," Lake said through his translator, coach Franklin Font. "If they give me the bunt, I do that for the team."
The 21-year-old Lake came up from the minor leagues right after the all-star break. Since then, he has piled up 55 hits in 45 games, including 5 home runs. The hits total leads all major-league rookies since the break.
It's not the first time Lake has bunted for a hit. If he sees the infield back, he'll lay the ball down.
"You're either savvy or you're not a very selfish player," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum, whose team is 60-80 and within 1 win of its total for all of last season. "It left the bases loaded and nobody out, and we ended up getting 2 out of it. It's nice to see a guy thinking about other things than his own stats.
"It just shows he's got some savvy to him about winning-type baseball."
Sveum noted that Lake could have been staring 7 RBI in the face with another home run in the second at-bat, but Lake said he was not thinking about himself.
"Yes, I know I can hit another home run, but it's not about me, it's about the team," he said. "I think I better help the team if I bunt for a basehit or a sac bunt."
Lake has played infield and outfield during his pro career, but with youngsters such as Javier Baez and Kris Bryant on the way for the infield, it looks like Lake will continue taking flyballs in the outfield.
If there was any downer in the victory, it was that lefty Chris Rusin wasn't able to stick around long enough to get the win with a 7-2 lead. He lasted just 32⁄3 innings by running his pitch count up to 85, including 32 in the first inning.
On the other hand, he drove in 2 with a single in the third, and those runs proved important.
"I guess that kind of salvaged the day when I can get 2 RBIs to get more of a cushion," said Rusin, who has an ERA of 2.89. "I was just a little wild. I was wild today. I had a tough time trying to find a rhythm. But the bullpen did a great job. They came in and closed the door."
Carlos Villanueva, a former starter, earned his second win in two games and his third since Aug. 31. Kevin Gregg closed things out with his 30th save.