It happens every year. Cubs fans everywhere grow frustrated and wonder if Alfonso Soriano’s baseball ability has left him. Then, we get to witness one of his hot streaks. The current one started last weekend in Seattle, and culminated in a two home run game yesterday. That makes five homers and 13 RBI for the week. To put it simply, the Fonz is on fire.
“I’m just working hard, trying to calm down my swing,” Soriano said. “Those two days that I took in Milwaukee, and the couple games that I took as DH in Seattle and Oakland helped my legs get refreshed. I think that makes them feel stronger when I play.”
Throw in a good enough pitching effort by Edwin Jackson and the bullpen, and you have yourself a Cubs victory.
“We saw [Jackson] the last time and he was much sharper the last time,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Today, we were able to get his pitch count up and then every time it came to a push situation, he made a pitch. That’s what I attribute it to. He made pitches. You hear that as a cliche, but today, it played out right in front of us. When he needed to make pitches, he did.”
Newly-acquired Matt Guerrier even pitched two scoreless innings.
“We haven’t had too many of those nice, easy seventh and eighth innings lately when we’re leading in a game,” Sveum said. “It was nice. Guerrier did a heck of a job. He was very efficient too. He threw strikes, breaking ball, really good changeup. It was nice to see Russell come in and get a big out there and hopefully build his confidence. And then obviously Gregg did his job.”
Nice to see Soriano and Gregg enhancing their trade values. And who knows – if Guerrier can have a good three weeks we might see him shipped to a contender. More prospects!
Speaking of prospects, Javier Baez was promoted to AA Tennessee yesterday. In his first swing of the bat, he hit his first AA home run.
Of course, the promotion forced Jed Hoyer to answer stupid questions such as “did Baez’s promotion have anything to do with Starlin Castro’s struggles?” The front office simply felt that Baez was having better at bats and needed a greater challenge.
‘‘The walk total is important to us,’’ Hoyer said before the Cubs defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1 at Wrigley Field. ‘‘He had a pretty good last four weeks. I think there are still some unfocused at-bats at times. That’s part of the maturity process, but I think he did a good job with the strike zone at [Daytona].
‘‘The defense has been better. It’s similar to Castro: He’s got to eliminate some careless errors. He’s got great hands. He can certainly play the position. He’s run the bases well. He’s obviously had a monster month at the plate. He’s played better defense. He’s been a good teammate. It’s time for a new challenge for Javy, and I think he’ll respond well to it.’’
The legend of Javy grows. There will certainly be some sad Cubs fans if he doesn’t pan out.
As for today’s game, you’ll see A.J. Burnett (4-6, 3.12) taking on Carlos Villanueva (2-4, 3.45). Villanueva will be making his first start since May 14, when Matt Garza returned to the rotation. He’s only expected to throw 60-70 pitches as he continues to stretch out after his stint in the bullpen. Today’s lineup:
Game time is 1:20 Central, and you’ll be able to watch on WGN. Let’s go team!