Darwin Barney, Alfonso Soriano supply the power in Cubs’ 7-1 win
BY TONI GINNETTI email@example.com August 13, 2012 10:28PM
Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro (foreground) enter the dugout after Barney's two-run homer scored both in the second inning of the Chicago Cubs-Houston Astros game August 13, 2012 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: September 15, 2012 6:22AM
The best defensive players sometimes need to count on their bats as much as their gloves to win the coveted Gold Glove.
If that holds true this year, Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney might be helping his cause.
His two-run homer in the second inning Monday off Houston Astros starter Armando Galarraga (0-3) accounted for the first runs in a 7-1 victory for the Cubs and Jeff Samardzija (8-10), part of Barney’s 2-for-2 night batting eighth.
‘‘I’m not up there trying to do that,’’ Barney said, though his fifth homer of the season — like all eight of his career homers — came at Wrigley Field and at a good time for the home team.
‘‘When he does hit them, they seem to come at timely times,’’ manager Dale Sveum said.
Barney has 18 hits in his last 14 games, but his defensive work stands out more. He played his 100th consecutive errorless game Monday, continuing to extend the Cubs record at second that was once held by Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg with 90.
‘‘I haven’t sent him that text yet,’’ Barney said with a smile, his admiration for Sandberg entrenched in the four seasons he played for him in the minor leagues. ‘‘I’ve got nothing on Ryne Sandberg.’’
He credits Sandberg for guiding him in the minors while he was a shortstop. Their long talks about preparation and developing a daily routine were as vital to success in the majors as talent.
It was shortstop Starlin Castro’s promotion from Class AA to the majors three years ago that forced Barney into an abrupt change of thinking about his path to the majors — not unlike Sandberg’s move from third baseman to second baseman. Barney’s successful transition is paying off for the Cubs as they set about rebuilding.
Sveum believes Barney already is ahead of the pack for Gold Glove consideration.
‘‘I know other guys have done a good job, but it’s hard to imagine anyone better at things like the pop-ups down the line, turning the double plays,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘It’s not just not making errors. It’s everything in his toolbox. There’s no doubt in my mind he should win the Gold Glove.’’
Monday was a good night all around for the Cubs, who also got a two-run homer from Alfonso Soriano, his 21st of the year, and a strong seven-inning outing from Samardzija, who equaled his career best with 11 strikeouts while ending a personal two-game losing streak.
‘‘Everything was feeling good,’’ Samardzija said. ‘‘I don’t have too many complaints about how I was throwing, though I could have cut out a few walks [of the three he allowed].’’
The only run off Samardzija was rookie Brandon Barnes’ pinch-hit home run leading off the sixth, his first major-league homer.
Samardzija has totaled 139 2/3 innings in his first season as a starter. He pitched 88 in relief last season.
‘‘I feel good,’’ he said. ‘‘I worked hard in the offseason, went to Arizona early. You put in that work early so you can be strong in August and September. I want to show the staff I can pitch late into the season.
‘‘We’ll see at the end of September where we’re at, but I’d like to finish strong. It’s important to me and will be important when we are contending for a pennant. We need to prove to each other we’re strong at the end of a season.’’
Like the Cubs, the Astros are in a rebuilding mode, and they have the worst win-loss record in the majors at 38-80. That might have been a factor in Monday’s attendance of 31,452, the lowest at Wrigley Field this season.