CHICAGO -- The 2016 Padres didn't exactly have designs on Brett Wallace assuming the role of everyday third baseman when they arrived in Arizona this spring. But the way Wallace is swinging right now, they'll take his bat in the lineup any way they can get it.
Wallace's go-ahead three-run homer in the top of the seventh inning was the decisive blow in Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader, as the Padres beat the Cubs, 7-4, at Wrigley Field.
With four infielders currently on the disabled list, the Padres essentially handed Wallace the third-base job on May 2. Since then, he is batting .280/.438/.640, while starting every game -- until getting a breather for Wednesday's nightcap.
"Any time you get at-bats consistently, you get in a rhythm," Wallace said. "That's always ideal. But I think also, the team put me in good situations. Matt [Kemp] had a big at-bat, works the pitcher, puts guys on base in front of me -- which is going to force them to throw pitches over the plate."
Wallace made Cubs reliever Pedro Strop pay for leaving his 1-2 pitch over the plate. He crushed a hanging slider over the left-center-field fence for his second homer in eight days -- both to the opposite field.
"Offensively, you have to love his at-bats," said Padres manager Andy Green. "They're high quality. [Wallace] takes his walks. He's got power. You love having him at the dish."
Infielders Yangervis Solarte and Alexi Amarista -- both of whom played third base earlier this season before going on the DL with right hamstring strains -- are rehabbing in Arizona, nearing a return.
When they get back to full strength, Wallace figures to see a decrease in playing time. But Green insisted that he'll do his best to keep one of his most potent bats in the lineup.
"As the year progresses and we finally get healthy -- whenever that wonderful day comes -- we'll find a way to get [Wallace] on the field more often -- whether it's at first base or third base," Green said. "Whatever it takes, however we have to move people around. He's proven incredibly valuable in the lineup."
As a third baseman, Wallace isn't without his shortcomings. He committed a pair of throwing errors in each of the two innings preceding his go-ahead homer on Wednesday afternoon. He's tied for the team lead with five defensive blunders.
But Wallace also made a fantastic diving stop to his left, ending a bases-loaded threat in the top of the fifth. Then, he more than atoned for those two mistakes with one sweet swing in the seventh.
"When you're in there every day, you want to have an impact on the game," Wallace said. "You always want to come out ahead as far as helping your team that day. It definitely feels good when you're able to do something like that to come back and have an impact in the right way."