Soriano's three jacks propel Cubs

Soriano clubs three homers in win

ATLANTA -- Here's a word of advice for fans coming to the next two games at Turner Field and future Cubs away games: Arrive early, because Alfonso Soriano isn't going to wait for you.

The Cubs left fielder hit three homers on five pitches, including two on the first two pitches he saw, and jump-started the Cubs' offense that pounded out 15 hits off five Braves pitchers, as Chicago routed Atlanta, 9-1, on Friday night at Turner Field.

The win was the Cubs' fifth in six games, the third straight over Atlanta and the second straight in this four-game series.

"I'm always very aggressive, that's the way I lead off," said Soriano, who blasted the first pitch of the game over the right-field fence for his third leadoff homer of the season and the 35th of his career, tying him for fourth all-time with Bobby Bonds. "I felt very good, especially when I hit a homer on the first pitch. So why should I have to wait for another pitch if he's going to throw a strike?"

He took a very good swing on the first pitch he saw in the second inning as well, a cutter at the knees, drilling it over the wall in left, and then on the third pitch he saw in the fourth, this time taking a curveball from the Braves righty out to left.

In fact, Soriano takes very, very good swings against Atlanta starter Lance Cormier (0-2). With his 3-for-3 against Cormier Friday night, Soriano is now hitting .667 off him (10-for-15), and, including last Sunday at Wrigley Field, has four homers and a triple in his last five at-bats against Cormier.

Soriano, who now has an eight-game hitting streak, is hitting .565 (13-for-23) on the current road trip.

"This is what we're looking for," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella. " We knew that he'd get going. It was just a question of when and how soon. When he's swinging the bat well, it's fun to watch him hit."

It's so much fun that everybody got involved.

Every position player got at least one hit for the Cubs, who also stole three bases and took advantage of sloppy Atlanta defense, which committed three errors, uncorked two wild pitches and had a passed ball.

Felix Pie, Michael Barrett, Jacque Jones, a last-minute replacement for Cliff Floyd, and Cesar Izturis had two hits apiece, with Pie driving in three runs on a sacrifice fly and two RBI singles.

But the hitting star was Soriano, who went 4-for-5 and became the 37th Cub to go deep three times in a game. It was the second three-homer game of his career, with the previous one also coming against Atlanta, last April 21 in Washington as a member of the Nationals.

"Last year I hit three [in a game], too -- that's very exciting," said Soriano, who is now hitting .545 (12-for-22) this season against Atlanta, with five homers and six RBIs. "Sometimes it's tough to hit one homer. I know, because in April, I didn't hit even one. So it's very special when you hit three homers.

"I feel very comfortable against the Braves. I make very good swings against them. I'm feeling good, that's most important for me."

Soriano, who was booed by the Wrigley faithful prior to the current road trip, was greeted by standing ovations from the many Cubs fans in attendance on each subsequent trip to the plate in the fifth, seventh and ninth innings. The only boos he heard came when he was intentionally walked in the fifth.

Soriano's leadoff homer in the first seemed to unnerve Cormier, who proceeded to load the bases and walk in a run.

Soriano made it 2-0 in the second, then he and Barrett went deep in the fourth to extend the lead to 5-1 and chase Cormier.

The Braves starter has now allowed seven homers in 7 2/3 innings over two starts in 2007.

Sean Marshall was the beneficiary of the offensive explosion. Marshall (2-2), who received four runs of support in his first two starts, both losses, has now received 19 in his last two games. As he did last Sunday against the Braves, he made the most of the healthy lead, allowing only one run in the third, while striking out four and walking one. He retired 10 in a row between the third and sixth, getting 11 of the last 13 batters he faced.

"It's been fun the last two starts, the guys have been swinging the bats really well and playing good defense and picking each other up," said Marshall, who threw 94 pitches, 61 for strikes. "It's been fun to pitch for these guys the last two starts. It was fun to pitch the first two, but I got hit with the losses. I'm excited to keep doing the same things I've been doing and keep pitching with these guys swinging the bats the way they've been swinging it, and hopefully just keep putting up more wins."

The Cubs are 4-1 with two games remaining on the road trip and are assured of a winning trip. They also have a 4-3 edge in the season series with Atlanta and can clinch the season series with a win in either of the next two games.

"A four-game series is usually a tough series when you're on the road," said Piniella. "We've been fortunate. We've gotten really good pitching. That's the key. [Thursday] it was Hill, and today Marshall gave us six really good innings. When you get good pitching, you get a chance to win and that's exactly what's happened here.

"We tacked on runs early. It's good to see. We've got a little tougher assignment with [Tim] Hudson tomorrow then [John Smoltz]. If we pitch well, we've got a chance."

Jon Cooper is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.