I have mentioned at least a couple times how the recent Cubs losses have just been a matter of an incomplete effort from the team. The starting pitching has been there for the most part, but one night the bullpen would blow a lead that the offense provided for once, then the next day the offense would be shut down. or the defense would have a lapse to lead to a big inning.
After an off day thanks to the rains in Chicago, the Cubs were able to squeeze in the series finale against the Rangers on Thursday afternoon. And boy were both team and few thousand fans glad Mother Nature held the rains.
Carlos Villanueva continued his solid start to the 2013 season, cruising through the first three innings despite lead off singles in the first two. The Cubs righty avoided trouble by inducing a pair of double plays before finally getting tagged for a run in the fourth, compliments of a solo homer by Ian Kinsler.
Mean while the Cubs offense jumped on Rangers starter Alexi Ogando early. Luis Valbuena cashed in Nate Schierholtz, who doubled, for the first run with a RBI single. David DeJesus led off with a triple in the third and came in on a wild pitch. But the fun was only beginning. Starlin Castro was along for the ride on an Anthony Rizzo bomb off the back fence in the right center bleachers and Alfonso Soriano made it back to back jacks with his first homer of the season. Both were frozen ropes that bounced off of the sparsely crowded bleachers and back onto the field almost as quickly as they had left the field of play. After all of that the Cubs were up 5-0
Valbuena tacked on an insurance run with a double in the bottom of the fifth, driving in Welington Castillo for his second RBI of the day. The Cubs would end up pounding out 13 hits of Rangers pitchers on their way to a 6-2 win. DeJesus went 2 for 4 with a triple and a double, but the overshadowed effort in the midst of all of the runs may have been the 4 for 4 day at the plate for Castillo. The North Siders line up as a whole did a great job getting deep into counts and waiting for their pitches.
Villanueva would go seven strong innings while only giving up two runs on four hits, with six strikeouts to boot. James Russell took care of the eighth with his eighth straight scoreless appearance. The final piece to the puzzle of complete effort was the bullpen, and there would be no blown lead by Carlos Marmol on this day. While the former closer still showed signs of wildness, with a pair of sliders one hopping the back stop, the pitches that Marmol did get in the vicinity of the plate were for strikes. His scoreless effort included two strike outs and a jam shot right back to him. One successful game does not earn Marmol being re anointed the save man, but it is a step in the right direction and capped off the through team effort that the North Siders were missing in their tough losses.