Ian Happ, Patrick Wisdom change the calculus for Cubs
As David Ross sat down to write out the lineup against old friend Yu Darvish for Wednesday’s series finale in San Diego, two thoughts bubbled to the surface.
One was Ian Happ’s former experience on the infield and the other was Patrick Wisdom’s insane hot stretch over the past two weeks.
With the incredible amount of injuries the Cubs have endured so far this season, Ross has had his hands full simply filling out a lineup each game. But Happ’s versatility and Wisdom’s power explosion made things a bit easier — for one day, at least.
Ross wrote Happ in at second base Wednesday, a position the switch-hitter has not played since 2019. He does have plenty of experience there (59 games, 346 innings in the majors) but has been primarily an outfielder over the last two seasons.
It paid off, as Happ and Wisdom teamed up with Anthony Rizzo to plate the game-winning run Wednesday against Darvish. Happ led off the 7th inning with a walk, advanced to third base on Wisdom’s single and then scored on Rizzo’s double play grounder.
Kris Bryant has set the tone for this team with a willingness to move around the diamond and Happ is following suit.
“Happer last week when a lot of guys were going down just said, ‘hey, if you need me, I can get back to the infield or willing to do whatever,'” Ross said. “That’s the kind of player he is. We’ve got a lot of those guys. KB — we’ve talked about moving around, doing what’s best for the team. Happer — same thing.”
Javy Báez has missed the last few games with a right thumb contusion, which has shifted Sergio Alcántara to shortstop all week. That left veteran Eric Sogard as the primary second baseman in the interim and Ross didn’t want to run the 35-year-old into the ground.
Alcántara also notched a big hit in the series finale against the Padres with a solo homer to provide an insurance run in the 8th inning. Happ moved to center field late in the game and made a nice leaping catch in the 9th inning.
The big performance Wednesday secured a 3-4 West Coast trip for the Cubs against two of the top teams in the National League (Padres, Giants). That’s especially impressive given the Cubs dropped the first 3 games of the trip in San Francisco last week.
“We finished strong,” said Joc Pederson, who homered for the Cubs’ 1st run Wednesday. “It shows our team chemistry and how good we really are.”
On the season, the Cubs went 5-1 against Fernando Tatis Jr. and the Padres.
“We get to go into an off-day with a nice little finish there and beating one of the better pitchers in the game right now,” Ross said. “With the way the road trip started, that’s a nice little finish to it.”
The one position Ross hasn’t had to worry about over the last week-plus is third base, thanks to Wisdom’s historic stretch.
When the 29-year-old third baseman initially joined the Cubs last month, he drew a start in the outfield and was more of a part-time depth player. But he forced his way into the lineup on an everyday basis, including hitting 3rd Wednesday against Darvish.
Ross can’t answer if Happ playing second base is a potential long-term option for this team while Nico Hoerner (hamstring) and David Bote (shoulder) return to health. But the Cubs manager has learned to stay nimble and Wisdom has helped drive that lesson home.
“I don’t know that I had planned on putting Patrick Wisdom into the lineup every single until he started smashing homers and it was very easy to write Patrick Wisdom’s name in the lineup,” a smiling Ross said. “I think all that is just subject to how things go as we move forward and the health of our team and how guys come back and how we can balance. The personnel matters a lot and what the options are play a big role.”