Whether batting ninth or lead­ing off, CF has been a driv­ing force on of­fense

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - rdorsey@sun­times.com RUS­SELL DORSEY | @Russ_Dorsey1

The Cubs have as much of­fen­sive fire­power as any team in base­ball, and even with names like An­thony Rizzo, Will­son Con­teras, Kris Bryant and Javy Báez, it’s been a group ef­fort to keep things rolling.

The of­fense has hit a bump in the road as the lineup is still search­ing to find a rhythm, but the 7-8-9 spots in the or­der have done their job to con­trib­ute. The con­tri­bu­tions from the lower-third of man­ager David Ross’ or­der have been sig­nif­i­cant dur­ing the short­ened sea­son.

“Here in this or­ga­ni­za­tion, it’s hard [for pitch­ers],” Báez said. “Even the guys on the bench are re­ally good. I think most of the time the pitch­ers have to pick who they want to pitch to. When the guys deep in the lineup re­spond like that, it makes it even harder for [pitch­ers].”

Cen­ter fielder Ian Happ has made a ma­jor­ity of his starts this sea­son in the bot­tom of the or­der, usu­ally hit­ting ninth. Not only has he been a cat­a­lyst for the Cubs, he’s also been the team’s best hit­ter.

The suc­cess has got­ten him bumped up in the or­der the last seven days.

Happ took over the lead­off spot on Tues­day against the Car­di­nals and con­tin­ued to have the same suc­cess, go­ing 2-for-3 with two walks and launch­ing his fifth homer of the sea­son in the third in­ning. The Cubs won 6-3.

Happ is slash­ing .313/.439/.627 with five homers, 13 RBI, 14 walks and a team-lead­ing 1.066 OPS. He also leads the team in hits, RBIs and slug­ging per­cent­age.

“Right now, it’s hard to take Ian Happ out of the lineup. This guy’s swing­ing the bat re­ally well. His right-handed bats have got­ten tremen­dously better for me,” Ross said last week. “He’s the real deal, in my opin­ion.”

“I think it takes pres­sure off the guys up top, and that’s the goal, right?” Happ said. “To be able to get all the way through, put pres­sure on the pitcher, one through nine, and not let up. I know the first five guys in the lineup are ab­so­lute bangers. So to make sure that once a pitcher gets through those five guys, you can’t re­lax, and they’re still tough [at-bats] all the way through, and you’ve seen that on a con­sis­tent ba­sis.”

The pro­duc­tion hasn’t stopped with Happ get­ting moved up in the or­der. The col­lec­tion of Ja­son Hey­ward, Ja­son Kip­nis, David Bote, Vic­tor Cara­tini and Nico Ho­erner all have had their hands in the suc­cess.

The bot­tom of the or­der is hit­ting .255/.350/.418 with eight homers and 31 RBI through Tues­day. The ad­di­tion of the des­ig­nated hit­ter this sea­son has given the 7-9 spots more op­por­tu­ni­ties to pro­duce.

“I think that def­i­nitely helps with that. I think the way that our ros­ter is con­structed, the DH def­i­nitely gives us an­other bat in the lineup that kind of lets us maybe move around po­si­tion­ally a lit­tle bit and make some ad­just­ments de­pend­ing on the pitcher.”

“One through nine, it seems like there’s not re­ally a let­down in our lineup,” Bryant said of the suc­cess. “I can’t re­ally re­mem­ber a time play­ing for this team where it was re­ally like that, where one through nine, there was just dam­age one after the other.”

1909 — The Philadel­phia Phillies were rained out for the 10th con­sec­u­tive day, a ma­jor-league record.

1913 — The Cubs tagged Grover Alexan­der for nine straight hits and six runs for a 10-4 tri­umph over the Philadel­phia Phillies.

1921 — Detroit’s Ty Cobb got his 3,000th ca­reer hit at age 34, the youngest player to reach that plateau. The mile­stone hit was a sin­gle off Elmer Myers of the Bos­ton Red Sox.

1934 — Moose Solters of the Bos­ton Red Sox hit for the cy­cle in an 8-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Fen­way Park.

1951 — Eddie Gaedel, a 65-pound mid­get who was 3-7, made his first and only plate ap­pear­ance as a pinch-hit­ter for Frank Saucier of the St. Louis Browns. Gaedel wear­ing No. 1/8 was walked on four pitches by Detroit Tigers pitcher Bob Cain and then was taken out for pinchrun­ner Jim Dels­ing. The gim­mick by Browns owner Bill Veeck was com­pletely le­gal, but later out­lawed.

1957 — New York Gi­ants owner Ho­race Stone­ham an­nounced that the team’s board of di­rec­tors had voted 8-1 in fa­vor of moving to San Francisco. The Gi­ants would start the 1958 sea­son in Seals Sta­dium.

1965 — Jim Maloney of the Cincinnati Reds no-hit the Cubs 1-0, in 10 in­nings in the first game of a dou­ble­header at Wrigley Field. Leo Car­de­nas home­red in the 10th for the Reds.

1969 — Ken Holtz­man of the Cubs blanked the At­lanta Braves with a 3-0 no-hit­ter at Wrigley Field. Ron Santo’s three-run homer in the first in­ning pro­vided the Cubs’ of­fense.

1990 — Bobby Thig­pen recorded his 40th save as the White Sox beat the Texas Rangers 4-2. Thig­pen be­came the eighth — and fastest — to ac­com­plish this feat.


Ian Happ is con­grat­u­lated by Cubs man­ager David Ross (left) and bench coach Andy Green after his home run dur­ing the third in­ning.

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