PITTSBURGH -- When can last actually be first?
In Tony Campana's case, he went into Saturday’s game looking as if his assignment as the No. 9 hitter was going to be a compliment to the leadoff spot. He ended up actually leading off an inning twice, getting two hits on those occasions and scoring a run both times.
“It took 138 games but I finally did something right, huh?” manager Dale Sveum said after the Cubs' 4-3 victory over the Pirates. “It worked.”
The last thing Campana thought when he first saw Saturday’s lineup was that it was an embarrassment to be asked to hit behind pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who batted eighth.
“The Cardinals used to do it a little bit,” Campana said. “It’s like another leadoff guy. It lets me bunt a little bit without thinking about the pitcher hitting behind me. It makes sense, I think.”
Sveum didn’t discuss the move with Campana, but that was exactly what he was thinking too. Sveum had watched in the past as Cardinals manager Tony La Russa used the same quirky lineup a number of times.
“At the time you thought about it because it was the first time you saw it and you really understood what he was doing,” Sveum said. “But you have to have the right personnel to do it. The last thing you want to do is put a hitter ninth and the pitcher comes to the plate with the bases loaded. But you can’t predict that.”
As it turned out, in all of Samardzija’s four at-bats he came to the plate with a runner in scoring position, making an out three times and laying down a sacrifice bunt. But two of Samardzija’s inning-ending outs cleared the deck for Campana.
Sveum said he would be up for using the lineup again, but it all depends on how long Brett Jackson will be out with his bruised right knee. Campana was playing center field in place of Jackson on Saturday.
With left-handed pitchers facing the Cubs on Sunday in Pittsburgh and Monday at Houston, Sveum said he might not use the lineup again until Tuesday at the earliest. Campana would be on board with the plan.
“I’m in the lineup,” he said. “I’m fine with it.”