The Cubs were on the verge of ruining Mother’s Day, facing a sweep by the Brewers. Jeff Samardzija and crew managed to band together to defeat the Brewers on the strength of the bullpen and late-inning offense. Spellcheck had only given up one run in five innings, but having thrown 91 pitches, Reed Johnson was sent to the plate to pinch hit for him.
“They caught me pretty quick there coming down the dugout,” Samardzija said. “But when you have guys like Reed and them to pinch hit for you, especially with the top of the lineup coming up it’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Johnson’s home run briefly put Samardzija in line for the victory, until reliever Shawn Campcoughed up the lead in the bottom of the inning. Camp then got credit for the victory when the Cubs went ahead for good in the seventh inning.
“It’s always good to be able to affect the game like that,” Johnson said. “I knew that he was up there pitch count wise so anytime we have a leadoff situation that’s usually my at-bat as well. Just go in there and put a good swing on it is all I was trying to do.”
Oh, Shawn Camp. Always looking to steal wins from the starters. Was pinch-hitting for Spellcheck the hardest decision Dale Sveum has ever had to make?
“I wouldn’t say it was a tough one,” Sveum said. “He was at his 90 pitches, he pitched well numbers wise, but the ball was up. You can tell it wasn’t coming out of his hand like it can. It was a time to pinch hit, a time to take a shot and the bullpen was rested. It wasn’t that tough of a decision, no.”
Dale Sveum does more than make decisions on pinch-hitting. He also convinced Alfonso Soriano to start using a lighter bat.
‘‘He has adjusted a little bit, but I think even a really smaller, lighter bat would help a lot,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘He was OK with it, but he didn’t quite go as far as I wanted with the lighter bat.’’
Soriano, who has used one of the heaviest bats in the majors much of his career, went from 33½ ounces to 32 and said it’s working out all right. But to go any lighter than that, he said, ‘‘might start to be uncomfortable.’’
Sveum said he understands ‘‘those are harder things to get over than people think.’’ And maybe the smaller difference ultimately will be enough; Soriano hit the ball off the center-field wall for a double Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
So when will the Fonz start hitting home runs?
‘‘When I hit one. I want that monkey off my back,’’ he said.
Good to know. While we’re on the subject of elderly Cubs, Kerry Wood looked like a real Major League pitcher yesterday.
‘‘He was really sharp. He did a great job,’’ said Sveum, who was most encouraged by the fact it came after a two-inning appearance Friday night that started with two walks and nine straight balls.
Wood has battled minor shoulder issues since spring training.
‘‘He threw his curve ball today, cutter, had good velocity,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘That was really nice to see, to bounce back after a good outing last time — a two-inning good outing — and bounce back with another one.’’
Maybe the old guy has something left in his tank. Or maybe he used it up the last two games.