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PIT@CHC: Soriano knocks second two-run homer of game

CHICAGO -- At his locker following the Cubs' 4-2 win against division-leading Pittsburgh, Alfonso Soriano officially declared himself hot.

"Ah, finally," he said. "Now I just have to keep it going for the rest of the season."

Soriano went 2-for-4 with a pair of home runs, driving in all four of Chicago's runs in Saturday's win at Wrigley Field. In the eight games since Cubs manager Dale Sveum rested his left fielder for two games in Milwaukee, then inserted him in the lineup as a designated hitter for two games in Seattle and one in Oakland, Soriano has hit five home runs and driven in 13 runs.

Saturday's performance was the best game in what appears to be a signature Soriano hot streak, similar to those he's ridden several times over his career. Sveum called it "the Sori show."

"I'm just working hard, trying to calm down my swing," Soriano said. "Those two days that I took in Milwaukee, and the couple games that I took as DH in Seattle and Oakland helped my legs get refreshed. I think that makes them feel stronger when I play."

Soriano's trunk-sized legs have always been the catalyst to his swing, and with his two home runs on Saturday he's ridden them -- despite not having the biggest of bodies -- to sole possession of the 12th most home runs on the Cubs' all-time list. His fourth-inning home run with Anthony Rizzo on second not only tied the game a 2, but also counted as his 175th homer as a Cub, passing Andre Dawson in the record books.

His fifth-inning shot off Pittsburgh starter Charlie Morton's sinker that caught the middle of the plate was his 176th Cubs home run and gave starter Edwin Jackson a lead to work with.

"We had some great offensive at-bats," Jackson said. "When you get run support, it definitely feels good. Not to mention the great defensive plays made behind me, it definitely helps as well."

Jackson used his signature slider to let the Pirates put the ball in play. His pitch count rose early, but the right-hander turned in one of his finer outings of the season, despite lasting only 5 2/3 innings.

Left fielder Starling Marte led off the game with a single, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. But Jackson buckled down from there, setting down the next three Pittsburgh hitters without allowing Marte to score.

Marte threatened again in the third, when he singled and stole second on a poor throw by Cubs catcher Welington Castillo. But Marte tested Castillo one too many times, as the catcher placed a perfect throw to third to catch the speedster on another attempt during the same at-bat.

Aside from a fourth-inning home run by Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, Jackson limited the team with the best record in the National League to just three base hits. And a day after Pittsburgh starter Francisco Liriano shut down Chicago's offense, Soriano's hot hitting was all Jackson needed to pick up the win.

"We saw [Jackson] the last time and he was much sharper the last time," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Today, we were able to get his pitch count up and then every time it came to a push situation, he made a pitch. That's what I attribute it to. He made pitches. You hear that as a cliche, but today, it played out right in front of us. When he needed to make pitches, he did."

Jackson was lifted from the game with runners on first and second, and Alvarez back at the plate with two out in the sixth. Sveum called for left-hander James Russell to get the final out of the inning against the lefty-hitting Alvarez, and the Pirates' slugger went down swinging. It preserved Jackson's line at 5 2/3 innings, one earned run, four hits, two walks and three strikeouts. While Jackson has had a tough start to his first season in Chicago, he improved to 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA against Pittsburgh this year.

"As we all know, this is a crazy game," Jackson said. "It's tough to be consistent. You just have to keep working hard and don't count your eggs before they hatch."

The Cubs had a chance to tack on against Morton in the sixth after Castillo hit a two-out double to right field, but the right-handed Morton struck out pinch-hitter Scott Hairston to end the inning. The Cubs scattered seven hits and drew three walks over six innings against Morton.

Sveum then turned to recently acquired reliever Matt Guerrier to continue what Jackson started, and the right-hander turned in two scoreless innings before closer Kevin Gregg picked up the save. Sveum even admitted it was an unfamiliarly clean end to the game by his bullpen.

"We haven't had too many of those nice, easy seventh and eighth innings lately when we're leading in a game," Sveum said. "It was nice. Guerrier did a heck of a job. He was very efficient too. He threw strikes, breaking ball, really good changeup. It was nice to see Russell come in and get a big out there and hopefully build his confidence. And then obviously Gregg did his job."

After Friday's 6-2 Cubs loss in the series opener, backup catcher Dioner Navarro said his team would need to play mistake-free baseball to beat a team playing as well as the Pirates. He said the Cubs had the personnel to put up a fight against Pittsburgh. Soriano's 32nd career multi-homer game proved that for a day and hung the balance of the Cubs' home series against the Pirates on Sunday's rubber game.

"It's just a game that you have to continue to grind," Jackson said. "You just have to continue to have confidence in yourself and believe that you can do it. Then you can go out there and have fun."

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