With the back of their starting rotation in flux due to injuries, the Chicago Cubs will need players like Jeff Baker to step up offensively.
The second baseman will likely get another chance to do so Saturday night when the Cubs continue their series against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
Chicago (4-3) placed pitchers Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner on the 15-day disabled list prior to Friday's 7-4 series-opening win. Manager Mike Quade will use call-ups Casey Coleman and James Russell as part of a patchwork staff in the interim.
Front-line starter Carlos Zambrano extended his mastery of the Brewers at Miller Park, but it was Baker who delivered the offense, going 4 for 5 with a three-run homer and four RBIs. He improved to 6 for 11 against left-handers this year, a promising sign with the Brewers scheduled to start Chris Narveson (0-0, 0.00 ERA) on Saturday.
"Baker? Jiminy Christmas!," Quade said. "Just unbelievable swinging the bat."
Baker is 7 for 15 overall this season and a .308 lifetime hitter against lefties. He is batting .420 (29 for 69) with two homers in 25 career games versus Milwaukee.
"It's just about getting good pitches to hit whether it's right-handed or left-handed and not trying to do too much and let the ball travel a bit," he told the Cubs' official website. "I've been able to do that against lefties, and I'm trying to do that against righties as well."
Narveson had little to show for a solid season debut Monday, scattering three hits and three walks in six scoreless innings before his bullpen squandered a lead in a 2-1 loss to Atlanta in Milwaukee's home opener. He has fared well versus the Cubs, going 3-0 in two starts and nine overall appearances against them.
Matt Garza (0-0, 3.86) takes the mound for Chicago after a quirky debut for the team Sunday. He allowed three runs and 12 hits - all singles - and struck out 12 in seven innings, missing out on a victory when Pittsburgh scored two in the ninth for a 5-4 victory.
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