SAN DIEGO—The other day in Los Angeles, Dusty Baker was discussing the possibility of a player winning a spot in the everyday lineup after taking over for an injured player.
"It just depends on who's getting 'Pipped,'" the Cubs' manager said, referring to the legendary first baseman Wally Pipp, who lost his starting job to Lou Gehrig.
With Jose Macias turning into the new energizer at the top of the Cubs' lineup, the next question is whether a player who "Pipped" someone else can suddenly get Pipped himself?
Macias' fifth-inning home run off David Wells was the decisive blow in the Cubs' 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres, giving them four straight wins, including a three-game sweep of their debut series at Petco Park.
The Cubs moved into a first-place tie with Houston in the National League Central Division and returned to Chicago for a six-game homestand against San Francisco and St. Louis, beginning Tuesday night.
The switch-hitting Macias replaced the sore-shouldered Todd Walker at second on Thursday, after Walker had replaced injured Mark Grudzielanek as the starting second baseman on April 10. Macias had three more hits on Sunday, leaving him 11-for-21 on the road trip with a homer, two triples and four RBIs. His average rose from .143 to .333 in a span of six games, and he was 7-for-15 against the Padres.
"He's filling in for the fill-in," Baker said. "He stays ready to play all the time, gives us a lot of different options."
Macias knows he probably won't overtake Walker or Grudzielanek for the job, and that his value is as a utilityman.
"I'll just wait for a chance to get in the lineup and do my job," he said.
Glendon Rusch, making a spot start in place of the injured Kerry Wood, yielded one earned run on five hits in 42/3 innings. The Padres came in with a .313 average against left-handers.
"He did a great job for us, especially against a team where everybody's real tough on left-handers," Baker said.
Francis Beltran, LaTroy Hawkins, Kyle Farnsworth and Joe Borowski combined for 41/3 hitless innings, with Beltran notching his first major-league victory and Borowski posting his first save since May 1 and team-record 21st in a row.
"It's nice," Borowski said. "I thought [the record] would be a lot more."
Run-scoring doubles by Ramon Martinez in the second and Aramis Ramirez in the third gave Rusch a 2-0 lead, but the Padres tied it in the fourth after a botched play by Macias. After Jay Payton's RBI single made it 2-1, Brian Buchanan hit a comebacker to Rusch that looked like a double-play ball.
But when Rusch threw to second, Macias was well to the right of the bag, and the throw bounced to Martinez, who was behind the base. Martinez was charged with the error, and Ramon Hernandez followed with an RBI groundout to make it 2-2.
"It was some miscommunication," Macias said. "It was my fault. I knew I was leading off the next inning and I wanted to make sure I got on base to recover from that mistake."
Macias not only recovered, he led off with a solo homer to left off Wells, giving the Cubs a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Michael Barrett's solo home run in the eighth provided the Cubs with some insurance, and the bullpen closed the deal.