CHICAGO -- A nifty storyline emerged in the Chicago Cubs' 6-5 win over the White Sox on Friday afternoon. Three players who have hit rock bottom in recent times -- Chris Coghlan, Clayton Richard and Starlin Castro -- were the big contributors in helping the Cubs to their eighth straight victory.
It wasn’t long ago (2014) that Coghlan was a spring invitee for the Cubs while Richard was designated twice for assignment this year alone. Then there’s Castro. By now you know about his struggles at the plate and in the field. They cost him his starting job at shortstop but not his baseball life. He took the field at second base for the first time to start a game on Friday, and he handled his business accordingly.
“It’s tough in the beginning,” Castro said after the game. “But I’m just trying to keep my head up and do my best.”
Castro had three hits, started a double play in the first inning and generally looked comfortable at his new position. He bobbled one ball but had plenty of time to throw to first base -- that’s the difference between playing second and shortstop.
“Yeah, we have more time,” Castro said.
We’ll see more of Castro at second this weekend against lefties just as we will of Coghlan, who played left field on Friday. Hitting third in the order, he twice homered while the Cubs were trailing. His third-inning blast erased a 2-1 deficit, while his fifth-inning shot tied the game at 5-5. Talk about clutch -- the Cubs are a perfect 12-0 since Coghlan was inserted between Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo.
“Any time you get up at the top of the order and impact the game, you always want that,” Coghlan said. “Especially when you have Rizzo behind you and guys like Dexter [Fowler] and Schwarber getting on base. Anybody would benefit and be excited to get up as many times as you can.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon has often said Coghlan has been the beneficiary of the worst luck when it comes to results at the plate. Hard-hit balls haven’t fallen in as much as he or anyone would like. There’s one solution for that.
“I think I’m figuring this hitting thing out,” Coghlan said, tongue-in-cheek. “You just have to put it in the seats. That way no one can rob you.”
Who knew the last of the scoring in the game would occur in the fifth inning when Coghlan and Rizzo hit back-to-back home runs? The Sox bullpen did their part for three innings, but the Cubs' pen did even better. Maddon pulled a struggling Kyle Hendricks after just 3 1/3 innings, handing the ball to Richard. Twice left out there for any team to pick up, Richard was home mowing his lawn when the Cubs called for him to come back. He’s been lights-out ever since.
“He really defined the game at that point,” Maddon said.
Richard pitched two scoreless innings -- giving up a hit and striking out three -- but his performance was even bigger than that. He settled down a game that was headed for about 20 combined runs at about a five-hour pace.
“He was huge,” Rizzo said. “Clayton coming in, giving us those innings was huge. He threw up zeros.”
Justin Grimm followed Richard, who was followed by Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon as the Cubs' bullpen threw 5 2/3 innings of shutout ball. It started with the long forgotten former White Sox draft pick of 2005.
“He’s really good out of the bullpen,” Maddon said of Richard. “He’s going to keep doing that kind of work for us.”
Everything is clicking for the Cubs, including contributions from role players or formerly struggling ones. Castro has a new home on the field as does Richard in the bullpen, while Coghlan’s new place is in the middle of the order.
“This is a lineup where any given person on any given day can help us win,” Rizzo said. “That’s what good lineups do.”
That notion extends to the 25-man roster. The Cubs are getting help from everyone as the wins keep on coming.
"When you're winning like we are right now, to not buy in makes you look like a bad guy," Maddon said. "So you want to buy in. There's a lot of good stuff going on in that clubhouse right now. Everybody is contributing."