Hey, Soriano bashers: hang on a second, I have something for you.
In the meantime, for the rest of you, the Cubs spotted the Astros a 2-0 lead, tied it, gave them the lead back, and then, with a spectacular five-run seventh inning, put the game away, insured it with a run in the 8th, and beat the Astros 9-7 in a game that had as much bad as good.
Since I did the good news/bad news thing yesterday, a little more conventional analysis today. First of all, "spectacular" doesn't apply just to the Cubs' 7th-inning rally. It also describes today's weather, a gorgeous, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky, mid-60's day of the sort that we rarely have in Chicago this early in April. (We're getting another one tomorrow, not quite as nice, but still better than 90% of early-April days.) The wind was blowing out -- to different fields at different times. When Derrek Lee slammed his second HR of the year to right-center, it did have a little help from the wind out that way. At other times it was blowing straight at us in left field., although Carlos Lee's HR to left in the 4th, which gave the Astros a 3-2 lead at the time, didn't need any assistance to leave the premises.
Jason Marquis was... well, OK. He allowed a run in the first, on a single that just got up the middle, a stolen base (Hey, Geovany Soto! What happened to that arm you showed us last September?), another infield single that Aramis Ramirez couldn't field, and a 1-6-3 DP (the first of two such DP's -- Marquis fielded his position well today). Marquis slogged into the 6th inning, trailing 3-2 and having gotten 11 outs on ground balls. But after back-to-back doubles followed an error given to D-Lee (couldn't figure that one out, it looked like a throwing error to me), and a hard line drive by Miguel Tejada at Kosuke Fukudome, Lou had had enough. Marquis did OK at the plate today, hitting a double and driving in a run in the 2nd, and then reaching on a throw that Ty Wigginton bounced off the tarp into the stands. (Last year that ball would NOT have made the seats, as the tarp was not there; the ball would have bounced off the bricks and back to the first baseman.) Marquis wound up at second, and ill-advisedly took off to third on a fly ball by Soriano, and was thrown out.
I can't say enough good things about Kevin Hart. He took over, striking out Wigginton and Mark Loretta, and despite giving up a triple in the next inning, escaped unscored-upon. For that he got his first major league win when the Cubs put up their five-spot in the 7th.
The five-run inning was a beauty to behold. Never mind the poor at-bat by Soriano in that inning, the rest of the inning was well-done by everyone. Ryan Theriot worked a walk. Pinch-hitter Mike Fontenot singled. Even Soriano's out resulted in two bases advanced, and then Reed Johnson's deep grounder to short scored a run. D-Lee singled in the tying run, and then, to me, the key at-bat of the inning occurred. With two out Cecil Cooper replaced Roy Oswalt with Oscar Villareal and Aramis Ramirez worked him for a walk. Now, you'll say of course that was key, because if he makes an out, the inning's over, and you'd be right, but the walk brought Fukudome to bat -- again, it's only five days, but I do not think I've seen Fukudome have a bad at-bat yet -- and he doubled in two runs. (Dome had also bunted for a hit in the sixth, on his own according to Lou's postgame press conference, and that advanced Lee, who had doubled, to third, where he scored on a wild pitch.) Mark DeRosa's double completed the scoring; even though Geovany Soto struck out to end the inning, it was one of the best long-sequence offensive explosions I've seen from this team in a long time.
So stop worrying about the offense so much! 14 hits, two walks, nine runs. Works for me. (Roy Oswalt didn't strike out anyone today and is 0-2 so far this year with a 6.00 ERA. And if he's not "on", the Astros staff is in big trouble.)
Bob Howry -- will someone tell him to pretend it's August? His fastball was flat today, and he gave up three hits and two runs before Carlos Marmol bailed him out, and Kerry Wood finished up with an uneventful (but no-strikeout) ninth, again hitting 96 on the ballpark speed pitch meter.
Now, about Mr. Soriano. Dave, who thinks Soriano is overrated and "not a team player", said that tomorrow would be a good day to give Soriano a day off. We all know he's a streak hitter, and he had a bad start like this last year, too. A day off, just to keep him from pressing, is, I think, an excellent idea. Give Daryle Ward the start in LF against Brandon Backe.
Win tomorrow, with Z on the mound, and you have a 3-3 homestand -- not ideal, but far better than we might have guessed a couple of days ago.
Finally, Fukudome got a standing ovation, as you might imagine, after his two-run double in the 7th. When he returned to RF, he bowed politely to everyone in the bleachers. Five days and he's already a fan favorite. He's exactly as advertised. I can't think of a better signing that Jim Hendry could have made this offseason.