In front of a crowd that was at least half Cubs fans at Miller Park, the Cubs beat the Brewers decisively, 7-2, and have won two in a row for the first time since they won the first two games of the White Sox series on May 18 and 19.
Hey, you have to start somewhere, right?
Alfonso Soriano had four singles and the biggest hit of the game, a three-run homer that put the game out of reach, turning the score from 3-2 (right after the Cubs had taken the lead on a leadoff walk and three straight singles) to 6-2; he's now hitting .316/.362/.522, maybe not what we want or need from the $136 million man, but at least closer -- and now he has almost as many RBI as Ryan Theriot (17, to Theriot's 18).
We can joke about that now, right? It does appear that Soriano, who has now homered in three consecutive games, has begun to play like the guy we hoped we were getting when the signing was announced last November. I do not think it is a coincidence that since he was moved to left field permanently on April 23, he is hitting .333/.380/.560 with 7 HR and 16 RBI in the 36 games played since that date (which would project to 32 HR and 72 RBI over 162 games, much closer to Soriano's lifetime averages in those categories). Obviously, Soriano was uncomfortable in CF, though he gave his best effort there, and now in a better comfort zone in LF, his offense has returned to his previous level -- in fact, those numbers are far above his career averages. He won't hit .333 all year, but I think we'd settle for something around .300/.350/.550, wouldn't we?
Props, too, to Jason Marquis, who battled even without his best stuff, getting out of two bases-loaded jams, and also getting out of an inning in which he, bizarrely, let a Johnny Estrada popup drop after appearing to call it. It looked like someone might have called him off it at the last minute, or at least Marquis might have thought he was called off -- but no one else had a bead on it. Fortunately, Marquis retired Geoff Jenkins to end that inning.
I was surprised, after the long-sequence inning punctuated by Soriano's HR, and the extra run added in the 9th, that Alan Trammell chose to send Ryan Dempster out for the second day in a row in a non-save situation. Fortunately, Dempster threw only eight pitches (six strikes), so he could probably go again tonight if needed.
Obviously, Lou Piniella (who sat in a suite somewhere at Miller Park with Jim Hendry and was shown frequently on camera) made out the lineup and was involved in all the pre-game decisions. But what if the Cubs win all four games field-managed by Trammell? Will there be a call for Lou to sit out more games on his own?
Of course, that won't happen, but many of us felt that a sweep of this series was nearly mandatory to get back into anything approaching playoff contention. Having won the first game in decisive fashion -- and now being 3-1 in Miller Park, a place that became "Wrigley Field North" three or four years ago -- and with Claudio Vargas, a pitcher the Cubs have handled several times already this year (both in Arizona spring games and in two regular season appearances), there's hope for at least the immediate future.
If you're going to tonight's game, please post a diary on your experience, and anyone who has good photos, email them to me and I'll post some.