Cubs find more unsung heroes in victory over Darvish, Padres
The Cubs getting unexpected contributions from a wide variety of players continued Wednesday, with a few interesting stories.
Reserve shortstop Sergio Alcantara homered in the eighth inning, giving the Cubs an insurance run in their 3-1 victory at San Diego. It was Alcantara's first home run with the Cubs and the second of his career. The first happened in his first major-league at-bat, when he played for the Detroit Tigers at Minnesota last September.
Backup catcher P.J. Higgins is off to a rough start at the plate (1-for-23). Behind the plate, things are going well. The Cubs are 5-0 in the games he starts, with Jake Arrieta getting his second Higgins-caught victory against the Padres.
Arrieta bounced back from his short start in San Francisco last Friday, when he was hampered by a stomach flu, to throw 5 solid innings and allow the Cubs to eke out a win against former teammate Yu Darvish.
The Cubs had just 4 hits but made them all count. Joc Pederson homered off Darvish in the fourth, Alcantara tacked on his home run late in the game. The Cubs took a 2-1 lead against Darvish in the seventh when Ian Happ walked, went to third on Patrick Wisdom's bloop single to right and scored on Anthony Rizzo's double-play grounder.
"We've had little moments like that that can't be understated all year where guys are getting big hits," manager David Ross said. "Higgy, I don't know what his record is when he catches, but that's another win in his book. We're getting contributions all over the place."
After the game, Arrieta talked about the value of Higgins, who made his major-league debut on May 19.
"I'm very comfortable with him behind the plate, and that says a lot for his ability," Arrieta said. "He's well-studied. He spends a lot of time with (coaches) and the guys going over scouting reports and sitting down with the starting pitchers and figuring out the game plan for that day.
"It takes a lot of the guessing game out of it.
"I'm very comfortable with him back there, and that's a great feeling. He blocked some balls today, some curveballs in the dirt with guys on base that could have prevented a run or a guy from getting in scoring position. That's huge."
As the Cubs set off on this seven-game West Coast road trip, Arrieta vs. Darvish seemed like the least favorable pitching matchup. But the victory gave the Cubs a 3-4 record on the trip, which isn't bad after losing three in a row to the Giants.
"I knew there was going to be limited offense," Arrieta said. "Runs were going to be at a premium today, obviously. Darvish is really good. He's tough to beat every time he's out there. I had to limit damage. You've got to limit the free bases and make good pitches and keep guys off the basepaths."
Relievers Rex Brothers, Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel didn't allow a baserunner over the final four innings. Tepera ran his personal scoreless streak to 15 innings.
Happ started the game at second base, playing there for the first time since 2019. Then he moved to center field and made a nice running catch in the ninth inning on a deep line drive by Fernando Tatis Jr.
Alcantara filled in for Javy Baez (thumb) once again, but Ross said before the game Baez was available if needed off the bench.
After a day off, the Cubs can look forward to having Wrigley Field at full capacity for the first time in 20 months Friday against St. Louis.
"Can't wait," Pederson said. "I've only been on the other side of full, sold-out Wrigley stadium (playing for the Dodgers) and it's rowdy. So I'm excited to be on this side. It's going to be quite the event. It's going to be rockin'."
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