Tri-oner Navarro: Catcher's clouts carry Cubs
Backstop has six RBIs, hits two dingers from right side, one from left
CHICAGO -- In the sixth inning, Dioner Navarro's bat went flying into the stands behind the Cubs' dugout as he swung at a pitch. Usually players just grab another bat, but Navarro wanted that one back, and for good reason.
Navarro notched his first career multi-homer game Wednesday, hitting three and driving in six runs in the Cubs' 9-3 Interleague victory over their intra-city rivals, the White Sox. And he used the same bat for each home run.
"He did his best little [Lionel] Messi impression today with the hat trick," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said of Navarro, the Cubs backup catcher who is a huge soccer fan and wears a Messi shirt every day before games.
Navarro hit a solo homer in the second, a two-run shot in the fourth and a three-run blast in the seventh. He set a career high with six RBIs, and is the first Cubs player to record a three-homer game since Aramis Ramirez did so July 20, 2010, against the Astros. You have to go back to April 17, 1974, for the last time a Cubs catcher hit three in a game. That was George Mitterwald's big game against the Pirates.
All the offense won't get Navarro more playing time, though.
"[Welington] Castillo's our starting catcher," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Let's not get carried away with a guy having a great game. ... It's just nice to have a backup catcher doing the things he does and handling the pitchers he handles."
Navarro's first two blasts came from the right side of the plate; his third was as a left-handed hitter, and he's the first to homer from both sides of the plate since the Cubs' Mark Bellhorn did so Aug. 29, 2002, at Milwaukee. And all with the same bat.
"I'm a really superstitious guy, and I had a good feeling for that bat," Navarro said.
He had never hit three home runs in a single game.
"I hit two one time in Little League," Navarro said. "That was about it. It's a great feeling and so surreal right now. I can't speak right now. The most important thing is we got a 'W' and [Scott] Feldman did a good job."
Spoken like a true catcher. Feldman struck out seven and did not walk a batter over six innings to pick up the win, as the four-game Interleague series shifted to Wrigley Field.
"That was awesome to watch," Feldman said of Navarro's power show. "I'm really happy for him. He works so hard calling games and going over scouting reports. It's nice to see him rewarded with a day like that."
The game was tied at 1 after Tyler Flowers' RBI single in the second. But with one out in the Cubs' half, Navarro hit his first homer of the game, launching an 0-2 pitch from John Danks into the left-field bleachers.
"Danks is a tremendous pitcher," Navarro said. "He threw me a fastball inside, and I pulled it foul. I was trying to put the ball in play, and I was fortunate to get a changeup up in the zone and I hit it pretty good."
Navarro delivered again in the fourth. With one out, Scott Hairston singled and Navarro sent a 1-1 pitch from Danks into the left-field seats for a 4-1 lead. Navarro entered the game batting .136 as a catcher, and .455 as a pinch-hitter.
"Those were two pitches I'd love to have back," Danks said. "But more than that, my fastball command wasn't anywhere near where I'd like it to be. I'm going to chalk it up to one of those days; I hope so at least. All the way around, it just wasn't nearly as sharp as I'd like to be."
In the sixth against Hector Santiago, Hairston singled and Navarro walked, although he lost his bat as it flew into the stands on a swing. A fan was nice enough to return it, although the switch-hitting catcher might have gone into the stands himself to retrieve it.
"I don't break too many bats," said Navarro, making his 13th start. "Obviously, I don't play a lot. I use one bat for everything -- I use the same bat for batting practice and for the game. Once I wear it out, I switch to another one."
After he walked, both runners moved up on a sacrifice, and Matt Lindstrom replaced Santiago. Lindstrom's second pitch to Darwin Barney hit the dirt, and Hairston scored on the wild pitch. Pinch-hitter Ryan Sweeney added an RBI single.
In the seventh, the Cubs had two on and one out when Navarro, turned around against righty Brian Omogrosso, hit his sixth homer of the season onto Sheffield Avenue. Was he thinking about going for the trifecta in the seventh?
"It crosses your mind a little bit," Navarro said, smiling, "especially having limited playing time. I had two, and it was a possibility to hit three, and fortunately, I got a good hitter's count, 2-0, and I went for it, and was fortunate enough to hit it out of the ballpark."
He understands his role.
"I'm here to help [Castillo] out, and he's here to help me out," Navarro said. "The ultimate goal is to get wins, and that's what we do."
The Cubs now have won three in a row, matching their longest streak of the season. However, the Cubs-White Sox series seems to have lost its luster among the fans. Wednesday's crowd of 31,279 was the smallest at Wrigley Field for the intra-city series since Interleague Play began in 1997.
The fans in Cubs gear were cheering for Navarro, who planned on using the same bat Thursday for batting practice and if he gets an at-bat in the game. What if it breaks?
"I'm going to cry," he said.