"When you get a good feel with a catcher, that's hard to replace," Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. "We'll make sure we get [Steve Clevenger] back there to catch all my flat grounds and my bullpens."
The game was exciting enough. Anthony Rizzo and Darwin Barney each hit three-run home runs and Starlin Castro added a two-run shot to lead the 14-hit attack.
Germano (1-1) picked up the win in his first start for Chicago, first start since 2010 and first career start against the Pirates. The right-hander, acquired July 19 from the Red Sox for cash considerations, had pitched three innings in relief on July 21 for the Cubs, but he went five innings Monday, giving up two runs on four hits.
Germano didn't overpower the Pirates. He's what Cubs manager Dale Sveum called a "crafty right-hander." But he won't remember the outing as much as the weird vibe in the dugout.
"I've never been part of anything like that," Germano said. "It's like every time I turned around, someone else was leaving. I guess that's what happens this time of year."
Clevenger had gone into the weight room to stretch in case he was needed to pinch-hit, and then got the word that he was taking over for Soto in the game.
"It was a little strange, a little weird," Clevenger said. "Geo's always been good to me. I've been with the Cubs since '06, and in big league camp since '08, and he always treated me really well. I'm going to miss him. I learned a lot from him and he treated me well."
Back to the game. The Cubs have had trouble with left-handed starters, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. They are now 8-1 in the last nine games against left-handed starters, and 12-18 for the season. Things have changed since Rizzo joined the lineup on June 26. The rookie, who hit a walk-off home run in the 10th inning Sunday against the Cardinals, now has 20 RBIs in 27 games.
The biggest hit, Sveum said, came in the first when Castro ripped an RBI double against Erik Bedard (5-12), who held the Cubs to two hits over seven innings on July 23. The Pirates tied the game in the third on Starling Marte's single. Pittsburgh then loaded the bases with one out in the fourth and took a 2-1 lead when a run scored on Michael McKenry's fielder's choice.
Jeff Baker singled with one out in the fourth and Soto walked to set up Barney's fifth home run, putting the Cubs ahead, 4-2.
The Cubs erupted in a nine-run fifth, sending 12 batters to the plate. Johnson reached on an error by third baseman Pedro Alvarez to open the inning and Castro singled before Rizzo's blast to right. Barney and Joe Mather each hit RBI singles off Chris Resop, and pinch-hitter David DeJesus, batting for Johnson, smacked a two-run single that ricocheted off the first-base bag. In his second at-bat in the inning, Castro hit his 10th home run.
Barney finished a double shy of hitting for the cycle; Castro had a single, double and home run. That's OK. They can try again Tuesday or the next day. Barney and Castro will be around after the non-waiver Trade Deadline. They're the type of players the Cubs want to build around.
"It was definitely strange and one of those things where you have to keep focusing somehow," Barney said about saying goodbye to players in the dugout. "You have to slow the game down, not worry about it and deal with it later.
"Those are guys we've been around for a long time. They're big pieces. You're talking about Reed Johnson -- he's been one of the best guys off the bench this year and the whole league. His son is my daughter's best friend. That's going to be hard for our families. He's got a good opportunity to go to a good team, and I wish him the best."
The Cubs still have time to make more moves before Tuesday's 3 p.m. CT Trade Deadline.
"Obviously, something can happen -- there's still time left," Sveum said. "Until they're finalized, you can't do anything about it. You just go into the game tomorrow, and by 3 o'clock we'll have our roster set for tomorrow night's game and go from there."