CHICAGO -- The Cubs extended their home run streak to five games when pinch-hitter Joe Mather went deep in the sixth inning of Friday's 5-4 win over the Dodgers. They've homered in seven of their past nine games.
That's a far cry from the start of the season, when the Cubs homered in only three of their first 17 games.
Manager Dale Sveum said his club's recent home run barrage has been due to the warmer weather and getting out of unfriendly hitters' parks such as Marlins Park.
"The home runs will start coming gradually when the weather warms up and the guys really start getting their swings down and start seeing a lot of stuff," Sveum said. "A lot of times, it happens that way. We're not going to be a huge home run-hitting team anyway, but obviously, we need to hit some more like we have been."
Russell ready to take on challenge of closing
CHICAGO -- New closer candidate James Russell acknowledged Friday that late-inning relievers are a different breed.
Don't worry, Cubs fans. That's a good thing, especially when it comes to closing. Russell learned on Friday that he and right-hander Rafael Dolis will get the chance to share the closing duties after Carlos Marmol was removed from the role by manager Dale Sveum.
Russell entered Friday's game in the seventh and allowed one run in two-thirds of an inning, while Dolis pitched a scoreless ninth to notch the save in a 5-4 win over the Dodgers.
Russell's father, Jeff, was a Major League closer for the Rangers, A's, Red Sox and Indians, so the younger Russell certainly has the genetics to succeed in the role.
"I'd like to think closers are a little screwy in the head, so maybe he passed that on to me," Russell said. "It'll be fun. I think you have to have a little of, I don't know, something wrong with you to be a closer."
When asked if he possessed that quality, Russell replied, "A little bit. Every now and then. If you're a baseball player, you've got to be a little messed up."
Russell, now in his third year in the Majors, has rarely pitched in ninth-inning situations and has never recorded a save, but he said he isn't concerned about taking the ball in the ninth.
"You've just got to go about it like any three outs," Russell said. "It could be the first, the ninth, the fourth, fifth, it doesn't matter. You've still just got to go out there and make your pitches, that's the bottom line."
Garza pushed back to Sunday with illness
CHICAGO -- Right-hander Matt Garza has been pushed back in the Cubs' rotation because of a virus and will not make his scheduled start Saturday, manager Dale Sveum announced following Chicago's 5-4 win over the Dodgers on Friday.
Right-hander Chris Volstad will start in place of Garza, who the club is hopeful will be able to start Sunday's series finale.
"He's a little under the weather," Sveum said. "He's pretty down now."
Volstad will be pitching on regular rest because of Monday's postponement in Cincinnati. The 25-year-old right-hander is 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA in six career starts against the Dodgers.
Sveum ejected for first time as manager
CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum was ejected for the first time in his managerial career during the ninth inning of his team's 5-4 win against the Dodgers on Friday at Wrigley Field.
With two outs in the top of the ninth, Cubs right-hander Rafael Dolis' 2-2 fastball to Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis was inside, and home-plate umpire Marty Foster signaled the ball hit Ellis and awarded him first base.
Sveum came out of the dugout to talk to Foster, but was ejected after a short conversation.
"Just asking questions," Sveum said of the talk. "Asked the wrong one."
Sveum: No issue with hurlers shagging fly balls
CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum didn't see the video of Yankees closer Mariano Rivera tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, but he heard about the injury and how it happened while Rivera was shagging balls in the outfield.
Despite how the injury occurred, Sveum said he has no issue if pitchers want to run down balls in the outfield, and the skipper said he wouldn't stop any of his own pitchers from doing so.
"You don't want to see people throwing crazy or jumping over walls and doing those things, but I don't think you worry about injuries like that," Sveum said. "The game's been going on for a hundred years, and every once in a while, yeah, you do see something happen like that. But part of that is some of the pitchers' conditioning in shagging fly balls and doing things like that. Sometimes those things are unfortunate, but people can get hurt walking to the ballpark every morning, too."
Rivera's injury has brought about speculation that this could be it for his storied 18-year career. Sveum, who played 30 games with the Yankees in 1998, said Rivera is one of the greatest pitchers and people he's been around.
"He's one of the ultimate professionals on and off the field," Sveum said. "His stats talk [for themselves]. He's the best closer, relief pitcher that's ever put on a uniform. In postseason play, regular-season play, there's never been somebody that dominant for such a long period of time -- even at the age he's been at, he's still been very dominant. More importantly, I played with him in '98, and he's the ultimate professional and teammate that anybody can ever have."
The last time the Cubs homered in five straight games was a 10-game stretch from Aug. 2-12 of last year.
Cubs starting pitchers entered Friday with a 2.47 ERA in their last 11 games.
Shortstop Starlin Castro (10 steals) and center fielder Tony Campana (seven) are only the fourth Cubs duo since 1918 to have at least seven steals apiece by the team's 25th game of the season. The others are Ivan DeJesus and Leon Durham (1981), Bob Dernier and Davey Lopes (1985), and Mitch Webster and Ryne Sandberg (1989).