The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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July 6, 2013

Soriano homers twice as Cubs club Pirates

CHICAGO — Had he accepted a trade last season, Alfonso Soriano might have played for a champion.

This time around, he doesn’t want to think about the possibility. A move might be a consideration if he keeps this up, though.

Soriano hit a pair of two-run homers in consecutive innings to lead the Chicago Cubs to a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.

“I want to win here,” he said.

The Cubs aren’t doing much of that – and haven’t in a few years, actually.

They’re still in the early stages of rebuilding, and with his eight-year contract expiring in 2014, Soriano might be attractive, particularly to American League teams looking for a designated hitter.

Last season, the seven-time All-Star turned down a trade to San Francisco, a decision that cost him a World Series ring.

“I don’t want to think about it,” said Soriano, who can veto any deal. “If they have something on the table, they want to let me know before they try outside. I don’t want to think about it. I just want to come to the ballpark and play my game.”

He delivered in this one, and so did the pitchers.

Edwin Jackson and three relievers combined on a five-hitter, and the Cubs handed the Pirates just their third loss in 14 games.

Pittsburgh came in with the best record in the majors and a seven-game road win streak, but the Pirates couldn’t get much going at the plate or find a way to contain Soriano.

His drive off Charlie Morton in the fourth after Pedro Alvarez homered in the top half put the Cubs ahead, and he followed that with a long drive to the bleachers in left to make it 4-1 in the fifth.

That was enough for Jackson (5-10), who won his second straight start. A disappointment after signing a four-year deal with Chicago in January, the veteran right-hander had one of his better outings and improved to 6-2 in 10 starts against Pittsburgh.

He held the Pirates to just one run and four hits in 52⁄3 innings, leaving to cheers after he walked Garrett Jones to put runners on first and second.

James Russell came in and struck out Alvarez to end the threat.

Matt Guerrier worked two scoreless innings, and Kevin Gregg came on in the ninth for his 15th save in 16 chances.

“Every time we had a chance to maybe extend an inning or move the chains Jackson made a pitch and got out of the inning,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Morton (1-2) pitched six innings for Pittsburgh, allowing four runs and seven hits. He struck out six and walked three, but the long balls by Soriano were the difference.

Starling Marte had two hits for the Pirates after collecting three the previous day and extended his streak to a career-high 11 games. He also had two steals, although he got caught trying to swipe third in the third inning.

Pirates second baseman Neil Walker left the game because of discomfort on his right side and is day to day. Brandon Inge replaced him at second base in the fifth.

Soriano put the Cubs ahead in the fourth after Anthony Rizzo doubled off the left-field wall, and he struck again with a shot in the fifth. The ball sailed to the last row of the left-field bleachers for his 12th homer this season.

That gave him 32 multi-homer games in his career and two this season. He also tied Harold Baines for 59th on baseball’s career home run list with 384 and took sole possession of 12th place on Chicago’s list with his 175th and 176th homers as a Cub after beginning the day even with Hall of Famer Andre Dawson.

“It’s fun when we have a teammate swinging the bat real well,” Jackson said. “It’s a lot of fun in the dugout. It’s positive energy and that’s what this team needs.”

Notes: Hurdle was a bit amused by footage showing an usher interrupting an interview with his dad by Pittsburgh broadcaster Robby Incmikoski during Friday’s game. The usher told them they were blocking fans’ view. Hurdle said a few of his family members were upset. “I’m kind of just taking the high road and chuckling about it,” Hurdle said. This weekend is the Pirates’ annual father/son trip, where players and coaches get to bring their dads.  ... The Cubs gave top prospect Javier Baez a promotion, moving him from Class A Daytona to Double-A Tennessee. The infielder was their minor league player of the month for June. “It’s time for a new challenge for Javier, and I think he’ll respond well to it,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. He also said it’s “highly unlikely” Baez will reach the majors this year. ... A.J. Burnett (4-6, 3.12 ERA) returns to the Pirates’ rotation after missing the past month with a strained right calf, and Carlos Villanueva (2-4, 3.45) starts for the Cubs on Sunday.

 

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