CHICAGO – With one month left in the regular season, Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano already has defied expectations this season.
Despite his age and the 1,729 career games that have taken their toll on his body, Soriano, 36, still deserves consideration as one of baseball’s best power hitters. Soriano hit his 25th home run of the season in Sunday’s 7-5 loss to the San Francisco – all coming since May 15. Only Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, the reigning National League MVP, has hit more homers (26) in that span.
Soriano became the 10th player in franchise history to hit 25 home runs in four or more seasons as a Cub (2007, 2008 and 2011). It marked the ninth time in his career he has accomplished the feat.
“I’m just working hard to be a consistent player, and that’s what I do,” Soriano said. “I love what I do … the most important thing is I help the team to win because if I put up good numbers I can help the team to win.”
The Cubs trailed San Francisco (76-58) 3-1 through three innings as they struggled against Giants starter Matt Cain. But Soriano’s three-run homer in the fifth off Cain gave the Cubs (51-82) a 5-3 lead. The lead didn’t last an inning. Reliever Manny Corpas recorded a blown save in the sixth, when Brandon Belt tied the game on a wild pitch, the Giants’ second run of the inning. Carlos Marmol (2-3) surrendered two runs in the ninth to take the loss.
“I think that’s why I put up those numbers because I play this game with my heart so anything I do on the field is because I love it,” Soriano said. “If I’m healthy and I can play 130, 140 games, my numbers are there because I believe I have the talent and the heart.”
Wood’s future: Pitcher Travis Wood has less than a month left to convince the Cubs he can be a staple of the rotation for years to come.
It has been an up-and-down season for Wood, his first with the Cubs after an off-season trade from Cincinnati. The transition to a notoriously tough pitcher’s ballpark hasn’t been smooth, however getting a year of experience pitching at Wrigley Field will help Wood better understand how to pitch. At this point, a spot in next year’s rotation is Wood’s job to lose.
“He’s obviously positioned himself as one of our starters, there’s no question,” Sveum said. “The strides he’s made to learn how to pitch completely different than he ever has been able to make him survive and have some really good games.
“He still needs to use and find some off-speed stuff to be able to nullify some lineups that might struggle with change-ups or might struggle with even strike curveballs.”
Wood earned a no decision in Sunday’s start against the Giants, stretching his winless streak to nine starts (July 6 at the Mets). The Giants managed four runs – two earned – off Wood in 5 1/3 innings. Despite some struggles, Sveum doesn’t believe Wood’s statistics – a 4-11 record and 4.64 ERA – accurately portray his performance this season.
“The five games that were really bad, are really bad, so yeah I feel like I’ve pitched better,” Wood said. “But, I can always pitch better in any of the other games.”