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Pittsburgh at Chicago

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Pittsburgh (66-89)030000011581
Chi. Cubs (82-73) «21202020x9150

Soriano goes yard twice to strengthen Cubs' division lead

CBSSports.com wire reports
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CHICAGO -- Alfonso Soriano's slow start is long forgotten. Now that summer is turning to fall, Soriano is where he expected to be -- leading the Chicago Cubs as they make a serious postseason run.

Soriano hit two homers Saturday -- giving him 11 this month -- and the Cubs kept up their late-season power display to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-5 and solidify their lead in the NL Central. Chicago has won 9 of 11.

"I got my timing at the right time. September is the last month and the team needed that offense," Soriano said, adding that he's definitely playing his best baseball of the year.

The Cubs extended their lead to 2½ games over Milwaukee, which lost 4-3 in 11 innings at Atlanta.

"It's nothing yet," Soriano said. "We have seven games left and we have to play like we played yesterday and today to make sure we make the playoffs," Soriano said.

The Cubs hit four homers for a second straight game.

Soriano hit a solo shot to tie the game in the second and a two-run blast in the fifth for his team-leading 31st homer -- not bad considering he had no homers at all in April and only four in May.

Aramis Ramirez, who had two homers Friday, added another and Derrek Lee also went deep -- this time with the wind blowing in at Wrigley Field.

Soriano now has four home runs in his last three games and 13 in the 25 games since he came off the disabled list Aug. 28. He added a two-run double in the seventh to tie his career high with five RBI.

"What he's done through September is amazing," said Cubs teammate Mark DeRosa, who also was Soriano's teammate in Texas.

After hitting only 106 homers in the first five months of the season, the Cubs have connected for 36 in the first three weeks of September.

"This is the time of the year you hope that your big people get hot and carry you and that's exactly what's happening. It's coming at just the right time," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "These are big-game people."

The Pirates lost their eighth straight, their longest losing streak of the season.

Pittsburgh starter Zach Duke (3-8), making his second appearance and first start since June 28 after spending more than two months on the disabled list because of a sore left elbow, had been especially effective against the Cubs in his career. He entered the game with a 4-1 record and 1.57 ERA against them but they jumped on him quickly, scoring in each of the first three innings.

The lefty lasted just four innings, giving up nine hits and five runs -- four of them earned.

"They're hungry. They can smell the playoffs. They are playing like a totally different team than we saw earlier in the year. They are playing like a playoff team," Duke said of the Cubs, who have split 14 games with the Pirates this season.

Manager Jim Tracy said he plans to give Duke another start before the season ends.

"Obviously I want to go out on a high note. I want to establish that, 'Hey, I'm still a good pitcher,"' Duke said. "I feel like -- although if you look at the scoreboard you wouldn't think so -- I feel like I took a step in the right direction."

Rich Hill (10-8) got the win with five innings of work, yielding five hits and three runs.

Lee, who went 4-for-5, homered in the first. The Cubs then got three straight singles from Ramirez, Matt Murton and Geovany Soto. Soto's ball ricocheted off the mound and went to second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who threw past first for an error allowing Ramirez to score to make it 2-0.

Pittsburgh got three runs in the top of the second with four hits, including an RBI double from Matt Kata and a two-run single past third from Duke.

But Soriano tied the game with his 30th homer in the second, and the Cubs took the lead on Ramirez's two-run homer in the third. Ramirez's 26th homer gave him 100 RBI.

Soriano hit a two-run shot in the fifth off Salomon Torres.

Nate McLouth hit his 13th home run, a solo shot, in the ninth off Ryan Dempster.

Notes

  • Cesar Izturis, who had to leave Friday's game because of elbow irritation, pinch-hit in the fifth.
  • Manager Lou Piniella said Steve Trachsel will start Thursday's game at Florida, the finale of a three-game series against the Marlins. Trachsel threw a simulated game after Saturday's win. The Cubs then end the season with three games in Cincinnati.
  • Chicago rookie outfielder Sam Fuld, a late-season call-up, made a great catch while crashing into the brick wall in the seventh inning to snare Nyjer Morgan's line drive and then threw back to first to double off McLouth for a double play.
  • An announced crowd of 41,271 ran 2007 attendance at Wrigley Field to 3,211,098 -- a single-season franchise record.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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It's high-fives all around in the Cubs dugout after Alfonso Soriano smacks his 2nd jack of the day. (AP)
It's high-fives all around in the Cubs dugout after Alfonso Soriano smacks his 2nd jack of the day. (AP)

Players of the Game
Chicago

A. Soriano
AB 4
R 2
H 3
HR 2
RBI 5
Chicago

D. Lee
AB 5
R 2
H 4
HR 1
RBI 1
 
Pittsburgh Pirates
Nyjer Morgan, CF4010102 .266
Jose Bautista, 3B3110112 .260
Freddy Sanchez, 2B4011001 .305
Josh Phelps, 1B3000122 .299
Xavier Nady, LF-RF4000012 .283
Ronny Paulino, C4110012 .262
Steve Pearce, RF3110011 .294
    John Van Benschoten, P0000000 .143
   a- Jose Castillo, PH1000010 .238
Matt Kata, SS4111010 .218
Zach Duke, P1012000 .258
   b- Cesar Izturis, PH1000000 .258
    Salomon Torres, P0000000 .000
    Nate McLouth, LF1111100 .257
Totals3358548  
a-struck out for Van Benschoten in the 9th
b-grounded out for Duke in the 5th
Batting
2B - Jose Bautista (34, Howry), Matt Kata (9, Hill)
3B - Freddy Sanchez (4, Howry)
HR - Nate McLouth (13, Dempster)
RBI - Freddy Sanchez (81), Matt Kata (15), Zach Duke 2 (3), Nate McLouth (35)
2-OUT RBI - Nate McLouth (13)
SB - Nyjer Morgan (6, 2nd base off Hill/Soto)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - F. Sanchez-Phelps
E - Freddy Sanchez (9, Throwing)
Pittsburgh Pirates
Zach Duke (L,3-8) 4954343 5.83
Salomon Torres 1222031 5.59
John Van Benschoten 3422140 9.73
Pitches-Strikes - Zach Duke 84-52, Salomon Torres 26-15, John Van Benschoten 53-30
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Zach Duke 6-2
Batters Faced - Zach Duke 24, Salomon Torres 5, John Van Benschoten 13
Chicago Cubs
Alfonso Soriano, LF4235110 .297
Mark DeRosa, 2B5000012 .294
Derrek Lee, 1B5241010 .317
Aramis Ramirez, 3B5222010 .315
Matt Murton, RF3010110 .276
    Sam Fuld, RF0000100 .000
Geovany Soto, C5010024 .375
Craig Monroe, CF1000112 .223
   a- Jacque Jones, PH-CF2110010 .274
Ryan Theriot, SS4230000 .273
Rich Hill, P2000002 .131
   b- Cliff Floyd, PH1000011 .283
    Carlos Marmol, P0000000 .000
    Scott Eyre, P0000000 .000
   c- Daryle Ward, PH1000012 .324
    Bob Howry, P0000000 .000
    Ryan Dempster, P0000000 .000
Totals389158411  
a-struck out for Monroe in the 5th
b-struck out for Hill in the 5th
c-struck out for Eyre in the 7th
Batting
2B - Alfonso Soriano (39, Van Benschoten)
HR - Alfonso Soriano 2 (31, Duke, Torres), Derrek Lee (19, Duke), Aramis Ramirez (26, Duke)
RBI - Alfonso Soriano 5 (65), Derrek Lee (76), Aramis Ramirez 2 (100)
2-OUT RBI - Alfonso Soriano 5 (26), Derrek Lee (27)
SB - Ryan Theriot (28, 2nd base off Torres/Paulino)
Team LOB - 9
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Sam Fuld 1, Matt Murton 1
DP - Murton-Theriot, Fuld-Lee
Chicago Cubs
Rich Hill (W,10-8) 5533240 4.05
Carlos Marmol 1000120 1.22
Scott Eyre 1000100 4.24
Bob Howry 1211010 3.45
Ryan Dempster 1111011 4.24
Pitches-Strikes - Rich Hill 74-45, Carlos Marmol 18-11, Scott Eyre 11-6, Bob Howry 12-10, Ryan Dempster 16-11
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Rich Hill 5-5, Bob Howry 1-1, Ryan Dempster 1-1
Batters Faced - Rich Hill 21, Carlos Marmol 4, Scott Eyre 3, Bob Howry 5, Ryan Dempster 4
Game Information
Attendance - 41271
Game Time - 2:35
Temperature - 66
Umpires - Home - Tom Hallion, First Base - Bruce Dreckman, Second Base - Phil Cuzzi, Third Base - Tim McClelland