Ward rediscovers clutch form
After frustrating hitless streak, Cubs pinch-hitter thriving
CHICAGO -- It's amazing what a few hits will do for your confidence. Just ask Daryle Ward.
Ward, the Cubs' pinch-hitting specialist, is 3-for-3 over his last three games, which raised his average from .095 to .208. The first hit came last Wednesday against Cincinnati, then he ended an 0-for-14 stretch as a pinch-hitter with an RBI single Saturday and delivered a two-run, game-winning double Sunday to spark wins against Arizona.
The hitless streak off the bench was frustrating. That's Ward's job.
"It wasn't that it was hard to stay positive, but I was wondering when I'd get the next opportunity to get some more at-bats to where you can feel more comfortable in the batter's box," Ward said.
The series against the Reds last week helped, because Ward was able to get a good feel in the batter's box. And he only had five plate appearances. He's also tweaked his stance, which is now more closed.
"Even when I started the season, I was hitting the ball really good, but I couldn't get it away from the defense," Ward said. "I'd hit it to short, and they'd make a diving play, and at third, diving play, and one at first, and a couple line drives to the outfield. There was a big situation, and I'd smoke the ball straight to the center fielder. I'd be like, 'Man, those were good swings.'
"The only thing you can do is keep swinging like that. But I changed my stance a touch, so maybe I can angle balls a little different. Change is good sometimes. You have to go with it."
Ward had 18 total at-bats in April. Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, on the other hand, had 105 at-bats. It would seem to be tough for Ward to get his timing at the plate.
"Sometimes it is," Ward said. "For me, once I feel like I'm comfortable in the batter's box, I don't need the timing part. I can get a hit. The timing comes in when you're trying to drive more balls. If I was trying to hit home runs, then I'd say, yeah, it'd be more difficult.
"In the role I'm in, I have to just get a hit. If it goes far enough to get out of the ballpark, good, but if not, I still accomplished what I wanted to."
Ward has a unique role on the team.
"I'm kind of like Kerry Wood on offense," he said. "I'm the closer on offense."
And that lucky pink bat he used Sunday in the Mother's Day game? Ward is going to keep one for his grandmother, who had breast cancer.
"It's personal," Ward said. "I'll take one and give it to her."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.