The Chicago Cubs began the week by changing their hitting coach.
The change of scenery back to Wrigley Field may have been just what they needed.
The Cubs have a chance for their fifth straight win at Wrigley and third in a row overall Wednesday night, but to do it they'll likely need to provide more run support for hard-luck Matt Garza as they continue their series against the Detroit Tigers.
Returning home after a 2-8 trip, the Cubs (21-40) fired hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on Tuesday, replacing him with minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson on an interim basis. While the club - from general manager Theo Epstein to manager Dale Sveum to the players - insisted Jaramillo was not to blame, Chicago compiled a .247 batting average and .304 on-base percentage under his tutelage, scoring two runs or fewer in 22 of 60 games.
"I guess this was the time to make a change here, and it's unfortunate,' second baseman Darwin Barney said. "You never like to see somebody go, but we want to move forward. We've got to focus on trying to win ballgames, and we're going to miss Rudy.'
More than anything, the Cubs may have missed Wrigley. A horrendous 8-25 on the road, they improved to 13-15 on the North Side with a 4-3 victory in Tuesday's series opener. Barney had a hand in all four Chicago runs, driving in the first three, then scampering home with the deciding run on Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta's second throwing error in the bottom of the eighth inning.
The Cubs, who snapped a string of 12 straight losses in one-run games, have totaled 28 runs during a four-game home winning streak.
Garza (2-4, 3.99 ERA) would gladly settle for anything resembling that sort of production. Though the snakebitten right-hander has allowed two runs or fewer in four of his last six starts, the Cubs have lost all six of those contests while supporting him with a total of four runs.
Garza yielded two runs over six solid innings at Milwaukee on Thursday, but Chicago lost 4-3 in 10 innings. He'll now try to avoid going winless in seven consecutive starts for the first time since a career-high nine-start drought July 29-Sept. 13, 2009, while with Tampa Bay.
He's 1-5 with a 4.60 ERA in eight career starts against the Tigers (28-33).
He'll be opposed by Rick Porcello (3-4, 5.03), who hasn't gotten a decision in any of his last three outings and has failed to pitch longer than six innings in any of his last six. The right-hander surrendered four runs, nine hits and two walks in five innings of Detroit's 10-inning, 6-5 loss at Cincinnati on Friday.
Porcello had a similar outing in his only career start against the Cubs, allowing two runs, seven hits and four walks over five innings and not getting a decision in Detroit's 5-3 home win June 24, 2009.
Austin Jackson had a two-run single Tuesday, but it wasn't enough to give Detroit a third straight win. The Tigers allowed the opponent to win in its last at-bat for the 10th time this season, tying Houston for the most such losses in the majors.
The outcome might have been different if long fly balls from Tigers sluggers Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera didn't both die in the outfield on a cool night in the Windy City.
"That's Wrigley Field,' Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "Some days it blows out, some days it blows in. Thursday afternoon it could be blowing out. That's part of the game.'
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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