Cubs defense starting to come along

ST. LOUIS -- Perhaps because he is only 5-foot-10, Darwin Barney is always looking at the little things that the Chicago Cubs can do to become a better team.

He has seen one perfect example in the last several weeks -- the way the Cubs play defense.

Despite an error by third baseman Donnie Murphy on Sunday on a do-or-die slow roller with a fast runner, Barney believes that continuing to improve defensively will definitely lead to more Cubs wins.

The error by Murphy was the only one the Cubs committed on the six-game trip to Philadelphia and St. Louis and did not factor in the 8-4 loss to the Cardinals.

Murphy also made a key defensive play, on a backhanded stop down the line of a hard grounder by David Freese with the bases loaded and only one out in the third inning. One run scored on the play, but the play ended the Cardinals’ threat.

“Murphy’s play saved a big inning and kept us in the game,” Barney said. “Something we are trying to take pride in is our defense and solidifying that will take pressure off our pitching staff. “We’ve gotten better. There’s obviously a lot of room to improve.”

Since June 26, a span of 42 games, the Cubs have made only 17 errors in 1,562 total chances, a fielding percentage of .989, the second-best average in the National League over that period. More importantly, over those 42 games, the errors have led to only seven unearned runs.

In the team’s first 75 games through June 25, the Cubs committed 58 errors, which led to 27 unearned runs.

“Rizzo has shown he can make all the plays, (Starlin) Castro is getting better,” said Barney, who leads all NL second basemen in fielding percentage and has made just four errors. “Hopefully down the road we will just get better.”

Prior to Murphy’s error in the sixth inning, the Cubs’ last error came a week ago, on Aug. 4, by Rizzo.

Manager Dale Sveum did not think starting pitcher Edwin Jackson gave himself much chance to let his defense work for him on Sunday, getting only seven ground ball outs in his five innings of work.

“When you’re missing location the balls flatten out so you’re not going to get the ground balls,” Sveum said.

Barney fielded only one ground ball in the game.

“We’re just trying to prove we’re a better team than our record shows,” he said. “All you can hope for is being a bloop and a blast away from tying the game up and until the ninth inning we were.”