Soriano hits two HRs as Cubs beat Pirates
With the trade deadline less than a month away, Alfonso Soriano might be getting hot at the right time for the Chicago Cubs.
Soriano hit a pair of two-run homers to lead the Cubs to a 4-1 win over the National League Central-leading Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday. The subject of trade speculation before the July 31 deadline, Soriano homered off Charlie Morton (1-2) in the fourth and fifth innings.
The veteran left fielder has homered five times and has 13 RBIs in his last eight games and could be building up his trade value for the rebuilding Cubs. Soriano, however, can block any deal and didn't want to think about getting sent away from Wrigley Field.
"This happened all the time last year; they (were) talking about trades and nothing happened," Soriano said. "So I just want to come back to the ballpark every day, play my game. If there's something on the table they want to let me know about ... right now I just want to focus on playing my game."
Soriano, who has 12 homers and moved into a tie with Harold Baines for 59th in Major League Baseball history with 384, was more than enough to support Edwin Jackson (5-10), who won his second straight decision.
Jackson, who lost his first five decisions with Chicago, pitched 5 2/3 innings and allowed one run and four hits while striking out three. He only allowed Pedro Alvarez's fourth-inning home run that gave the Pirates a brief 1-0 lead.
"We didn't create any offensive momentum every time we had a chance maybe to extend an inning," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Unlike Soriano, Jackson isn't believed to be on the trading block, and after signing a four-year, $52 million free-agent contract in the offseason, he might be settling in with his new team.
"I feel like I'm just taking it one game at a time," Jackson said. "Just going out and not getting too high and not getting too low, just kind of staying even-keel."
Jackson left with two outs in the sixth after allowing an Andrew McCutchen single and walking Garrett Jones. James Russell replaced him and struck out Alvarez to end the threat.
Matt Guerrier pitched two perfect innings in relief before Kevin Gregg saved his 15th game in 16 tries for Chicago, which won just its 12th game against a division opponent.
"We haven't had too many of those nice, easy seventh and eighth innings lately when we've had a lead in a game," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has had plenty of games like that, albeit not Saturday.
Along with Alvarez, whose home run gave him 22 and pulled him within one of Carlos Gonzalez for the National League lead, the Pirates had four players named to the All-Star Game. Alvarez, McCutchen, closer Jason Grilli and starter Jeff Locke gave Pittsburgh four selections for the first time since 1981.
The loss was just the Pirates' third in 14 games and they missed their third chance to go a season-high 22 games above .500. Saturday also cost them a chance at eight straight victories away from Pittsburgh for the first time since September 1987.
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker was replaced in the bottom of the fifth by Brandon Inge. Hurdle said Walker had "right side soreness" and is day to day.
And in his longest start this season, Morton allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings, but allowed the two Soriano homers.
"Really, the scoring plays were home runs," Morton said. "What I need to do and what I do well usually is keep the ball in the park and I didn't do that."
Soriano's two homers gave him 32 multi-homer games in his career and his second of the season. Because of those homers, the Wrigley Field fans were treated to a Cubs win, and those are something Soriano would like to be a part of in the future.
"I think that this is the best place when we're winning," Soriano said, "so that's why I want to win here."
NOTES: Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville brought the Stanley Cup to Wrigley Field and threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game. ... A.J. Burnett (4-6, 3.12 ERA) will come off the disabled list on Sunday to face Carlos Villanueva (2-4, 3.59). Burnett hasn't started since June 8, and Villanueva is starting for the first time since May 14. Pittsburgh is expected to announce a corresponding roster move on Sunday. ... Travis Wood was the lone Cubs player named to the National League All-Star team. ... Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said he saw Friday's abbreviated interview between his father, Clinton, and Pirates TV announcer Robby Incmikoski that was interrupted by a Wrigley Field usher and has spread around the Internet. ... Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said top prospect Javier Baez, promoted Friday to Double-A Tennessee, is about a month ahead of his development plan but that it's unlikely the shortstop would reach the major leagues this season. Hoyer also was optimistic the team would sign first-round pick Kris Bryant before the July 12 deadline.
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