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Baker is Cubs' hot hand at second

Baker is Cubs' hot hand at second

NEW YORK -- To say that the Cubs had a frustrating night at the plate on Friday would be an understatement.

Five days after battering Mets starter Bobby Parnell for eight runs in 4 2/3 innings, the Cubs were blanked over seven innings by the New York rookie. They twice left the bases loaded, unable to score with the bags jammed and nobody out in the seventh.

The lone bright spot in the offense was Jeff Baker, who went 3-for-3 with a walk and finally got Chicago on the board with a game-tying two-out RBI single in the eighth.

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It shouldn't be a surprise that Baker was the one Cub to come through in a big spot. After all, the infielder picked up from Colorado earlier this season has been Chicago's hottest hitter over the past month entering Saturday's game against the Mets. Since Aug. 9 -- when he started to get consistent at-bats at second base -- Baker was batting a blistering .384. That's a far cry from the start of his season, which included a right hand injury and just 11 hits in his first 61 at-bats.

The Cubs acquired Baker from the Rockies on July 2. It was fitting that it was against Colorado on Aug. 9 that he started his current hot streak with a 2-for-5 day that included a double and a triple. Baker had two more hits the next day, four the day after that, and has showed little signs of slowing down.

Baker attributed his success to seeing his name on the lineup card every day.

"I'm just trying to have a consistent approach with consistent at-bats and not trying to do too much," Baker said before the Cubs' Saturday game. "Everyone comes in here as a competitor and wants to play every day. When you're in every day, you try to make the most of your opportunities and give the manager a reason to keep you in there."

Baker has certainly given manager Lou Piniella ample reasons to keep him in the lineup. Baker has solidified the second base position by hitting .346 as a second baseman coming into Saturday -- tops in the National League for players with at least 100 at-bats. Prior to Baker's emergence, Cubs second basemen batted just .227.

Still, Baker's success at the plate has come during a down stretch for Chicago, which is just 9-16 since that Aug. 9 matchup with the Rockies.

"It's just one of those things. You can be playing well individually, but if the team's not winning, it's frustrating," Baker said. "You're just trying to be productive and give the team a lift that day and do whatever's necessary and whatever you're capable of doing."

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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