The only thing that matters, Derrek Lee has said, are wins, but it's tough to ignore the numbers the Cubs first baseman is putting up.
Lee smacked his 35th home run and drove in two runs to set a single-season career high in RBIs and help the Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 7-2, on Tuesday night.
"How about Derrek Lee?" Lou Piniella said. "[He's] driving it to all fields."
Lee hit an RBI double in the first and an opposite-field solo homer with two outs in the fourth to raise his season total to 109 RBIs. His previous best was 107, accomplished in 2005, when he also led the National League in batting and hit 46 home runs. Lee leads the Major Leagues in RBIs since July 1, with 70, and also in home runs since that date, with 24.
"I hit that ball to right good today," Lee said of his home run. "It was a pitch out over the plate. I was just trying to hit it where it was pitched."
Rookie Randy Wells (11-9) was trying to follow Piniella's advice. In his last start five days ago against the Brewers, he gave up five runs on five hits and five walks over four innings. Piniella accused him of "nibbling" too much with his pitches.
"I said last time that I'd fix it, and we got to the bottom of it," Wells said. "I don't know what to call it, but chalk it up to lazy arm, just trying to guide pitches into the zone. When your sinker is moving too much, you don't catch any of the plate, and when you do catch the plate, it sits there and guys hit it."
So, no nibbling this time?
"No nibbling," Wells said. "I learned my lesson."
He did serve up Prince Fielder's 41st homer leading off the second inning off a changeup, one of seven hits off the right-hander. Wells then struck out Fielder in his next two at-bats and finished with five Ks. He did not walk a batter and threw an efficient 89 pitches over six innings.
The rookie was shortened up and will make one more start Sept. 30, during a makeup doubleheader against the Pirates.
"That's it? That's news to me," Wells said when told of the pitching rotation. "I want to get as many as I can just to show them I can handle the work load and head into next year with some confidence that I can handle the load. We'll talk about it. Maybe I can talk them into two more."
Piniella doesn't need any convincing to play Tyler Colvin in center field. The youngster, who made his Major League debut on Monday, getting the call from Double-A Tennessee, robbed Ryan Braun of a possible three-run home run with one out in the ninth. He also snared Craig Counsell's fly ball in the gap with a running catch in the third.
"It was fun watching the youngster roam out there," Piniella said. "With that outfield we had in the eighth and ninth of [Kosuke] Fukudome, Colvin and [Sam] Fuld, it doesn't get much better than that with the glove."
Colvin admitted he was nervous on Monday, yet still came through with his first Major League hit on a broken-bat single. On Tuesday, he produced his first web gem. Not a bad start.
"It was just good timing," Colvin said of Braun's play. "Fielder put one almost the same distance, but it hit the railing. I knew I could go back on that one. I just had to get my timing right."
The butterflies were under control.
"You're always nervous before the game," he said. "I was able to eat some food this time. It's still baseball."
It's early, but Colvin, the team's No. 1 Draft pick in 2006, could be a starting outfielder in 2010.
"We know that Fukudome is a much better right fielder," Piniella said. "That's a really nice position for him. He's done a very adequate job in center field. Depending on what happens coming out of Spring Training or this winter, we'll see how we line up. When you look at a team's defense, you look right up the middle, and the stronger you are up the middle, the better you're going to be."
The Cubs scored seven runs in the first two innings on Monday, and they struck early against Dave Bush (5-8). The first four batters reached, and they took a 3-0 lead on Lee's RBI double and Aramis Ramirez's two-run single.
The Cubs had two on and one out in the second when Fukudome hit a ground-rule RBI double. Ryan Theriot was held up at third on the play and scored on a wild pitch. Jason Kendall retrieved the ball and flipped to Bush covering at home, but the throw skipped past for an error and Fukudome scored for a 6-0 lead.
"I just couldn't get everything to work together," Bush said. "I tried a little bit of everything. I feel fine, it's just that since I've been back I've had some days where I can't get in sync. It's been a difficult process for me to get the consistency back."
The Cubs now are 3-0 since Milton Bradley was suspended Sunday, but his absence isn't the reason for the streak, Lee said.
"I say it 100 times, once you're on the field, there's no distractions," Lee said. "You're playing a baseball game and not worried about anything else."
A year ago, there was a lot more on the line when the Cubs and Brewers squared off at Miller Park at the end of the season. The Cubs had clinched the NL Central, while the Brewers were battling for the Wild Card spot.
"It's kind of a bad atmosphere, being out of it," Lee said of this series. "Thinking back to the last series last year when we had clinched and they were trying to clinch, the crowd was electric, and that's kind of what you hope for in September. It's still a game to be played."