$18 million this season.
I think it can safely be said, at least for the last several games, that Alfonso Soriano is making that huge contract look pretty good.
Soriano took over the team lead in HR today, hitting a pair to give him six on the season, added a double, drove in four runs, and blew out the Diamondbacks 10-5, in a game that was only that close because John Grabow kept giving up hits in the ninth inning, allowing three runs in after the Cubs had made it 10-2 by the end of the fifth.
Since April 21 -- his last 10 games -- Soriano is 10-for-34 (.294) with five HR, 14 RBI and six walks; he's also scored 10 runs in those 10 games. We have seen hot streaks like this from Soriano before, and generally, when that happens, the Cubs start winning games. It's no coincidence that the Cubs are 7-3 in those ten games -- and yes, I realize there are other factors that have helped beyond Soriano's performance. Nevertheless, this is a good sign for the upcoming road trip.
One of those factors today was Tom Gorzelanny, who was staked to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, thanks in part to Soriano's first blast. He had a strikeout pitch going -- seven K's in the first three innings -- and although he seemed as if he were laboring a bit by the time he got to the sixth and seventh, he did complete seven solid innings, with a career-high ten K's, six hits allowed, and three walks. His only real mistake was Rusty Ryal's two-run shot in the fourth, which provided the Diamondbacks' only runs off him. Gorz got his first win of the year and kept his ERA at a very good 2.48. It was the Cubs' 17th quality start of the season, at this writing tied with the Giants for second-most in the National League.
A few more props for today's game: Marlon Byrd was 2-for-5, including his fifth HR of the season; Derrek Lee drew a pair of walks, singled and drove in a run with a weird sacrifice fly that wound up as a double play when Kosuke Fukudome was thrown out at third trying to advance; Ryan Theriot had three more hits, extending his hitting streak to 12; and Chad Tracy, getting only his second start of the season, went 3-for-4 and made a nifty over-the-shoulder catch of a foul popup in the ninth inning. Tracy's good hitting day raised his average from .188 to .300.
The Cubs now have two regulars (Theriot and Byrd) hitting over .350 (.355 and .354 respectively), and both rank in the top five in BA in the National League. Meanwhile, Fukudome's .438 OBA ranks third in the NL, and Soriano (.675), Fukudome (.630) and Byrd (.606) all rank in the top 10 in the NL in SLG. The same three players (Fukudome, 1.068, Soriano, 1.057 and Byrd, .975) rank fourth, fifth and 10th respectively in OPS.
While the weather wasn't as spectacular as it has been the last three days, it was still pleasant (64 degrees at game time, with light winds), although mostly cloudy. The sun did try to peek through at times, but the lights were turned on before the game started. I cannot remember getting this far into a home season (13 games) without a single drop of rain falling during a game, and with the weather for most games at least comfortable, and at times excellent. The only real cold games played were the two night games -- and those were played with temperatures near average for this time of year, in the 40's, not in the 30's as we have seen in the past.
So the Cubs head to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati back at .500, and back in second place alone behind the Cardinals, who finished a series win of their own with a 6-0 shutout of the Reds today. Here's a trip to places the Cubs have played well in recent years -- they need to have at least a 4-2 trip to start establishing themselves as the single contender with St. Louis for the division, and also as a serious wild card contender, given that so many NL teams are within a few games (as of this morning, the 14 teams besides the Cardinals and Astros were all within five games of each other).
Finally, I am pleased to report that a few fans down the left field line near the bullpen attempted to start the wave today, but were booed loudly and shouted down by other fans nearby. Good. Let yesterday's wave be the last one at Wrigley.