Cubs flash the power against Brewers

Cubs flash power vs. Brewers

CHICAGO -- When he struck out in eight straight at-bats over two days, all Geovany Soto could do was scratch his head. On Wednesday night, all he could do was smile.

Soto hit a pair of three-run homers for his first career multi-homer game and Ryan Dempster improved to 4-0 as the Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 19-5, to even the series at one win apiece.

With the win, the Cubs finished April with a franchise-record 17 wins. The previous high was 16, set in April 1969. Before this season, the Cubs had won at least 15 games in April in 2003, 2001 and 1969. The 19 runs were also a season high.

"You multiply six times 17, you'll have a pretty good year," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Seventeen wins for the month of April is really nice. It's a good way to get started."

The only negative for Dempster was that he walked five. Ryan Braun drove in three runs with a RBI single in the Brewers third, and two-run double in the fifth. The two runners who scored in the fifth had both walked.

"He had a comfortable lead, you throw strikes and go deeper in the ballgame," Piniella said of Dempster. "He started out 4-0 for us, and has pitched well in every game and given us a chance to win. Those walks -- it seems like one inning he gets a little bit out of sync. It's something he has to work out."

The right-hander, still making the adjustment from closer to starter, gave up three runs on four hits and struck out one over six innings.

"Six [runs] in the first makes it real easy," Dempster said. "They didn't need me today."

The Cubs needed Soto, who had struck out in eight straight at-bats Friday through Saturday in Washington, including five times on Saturday. He now has 20 RBIs for the month, an all-time high for a Cubs rookie in April. The six RBIs were a career single-game high as well. What was the difference?

"We got him out of Washington, D.C.," Piniella said.

"Hopefully, it never happens again, what happened in Washington," Soto said.

"We were joking around after 'Geo' hit his second home run, and I said, 'It's the same guy who punched out eight times in a row,'" Dempster said. "It just shows you what a good player he is mentally to go through some adversity and go out and swing the bat like that. Everybody swung the bat today. It was a lot of fun."

Soto is the first Cubs rookie to homer twice in a game since Ryan Theriot hit two Sept. 17, 2006, against Cincinnati. Soto's first homer highlighted the six-run first inning. Reed Johnson and Theriot each singled to get things started against Jeff Suppan (1-1), and Johnson scored on Derrek Lee's double off the left field wall. Theriot hesitated, and remained at third. Aramis Ramirez took care of that, doubling to drive in Theriot and Lee, and opening a 3-0 lead. One batter later, Mark DeRosa walked, and Soto then homered to make it 6-0.

The Cubs padded their lead in the third when Kosuke Fukudome doubled to lead off, the ball richocheting off Suppan's right foot. He then scored on DeRosa's single to open a 7-1 lead.

By the time the night was over, the Cubs had collected 17 hits, including a three-run double by Ronny Cedeno in the eighth. Ramirez finished with three RBIs, and DeRosa hit a pair of RBI singles. The Cubs now have three players with at least 20 RBIs for the first time in the month of April in Lee (23), Ramirez (22), and Soto (20).

Cedeno is making a case for a spot in the lineup. Piniella said he discussed that with bench coach Alan Trammell right after Cedeno's big hit.

"The answer is yes, we'll find a place to get him in," Piniella said of the infielder, who is batting .378.

Where? That's to be determined. For sure, Cedeno won't be catching. That's Soto's spot.

"You still have to stay positive," Soto said about dealing with his skid in Washington. "It's still early in the year. You just have to work every day with a smile on your face and go out and do your best."

That's all the Cubs need.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.