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Soriano's walk-off caps Cubs' rally

Soriano's walk-off caps Cubs' rally

CHICAGO -- Alfonso Soriano got an early beer shower in the seventh, delivered the game-winning RBI single in the ninth and may have saved his spot at the top of the Cubs' lineup in the process.

Reed Johnson scored from second on Soriano's walk-off RBI single with two outs in the ninth Thursday to lift the Cubs to a 6-5 Interleague victory over the Chicago White Sox and a split of the abbreviated series.

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Johnson delivered a pinch-hit single to lead off the final frame against Matt Thornton (4-2) and advanced on Andres Blanco's sacrifice. One out later, Soriano singled to right-center for the game-winner. Kevin Gregg (1-1) picked up the win in relief.

"Everybody's happy for Sori," Johnson said of the left fielder, who ended an 0-for-15 skid with a single in the eighth. "If he was one of those guys not working at his craft and just out there collecting his check and not working at what he does, it'd be one thing.

"He's a guy who cares about his success and his team's success," Johnson said. "Nobody's happier for him than the 24 other guys in this clubhouse, because we know he's been struggling a little bit. It's only a matter of time before he gets it going and he gets pretty fun to watch."

Derrek Lee and Geovany Soto hit back-to-back homers in the eighth to tie the game at 5 and set up Soriano's heroics. With the Cubs trailing, 5-1, against Scott Linebrink, pinch-hitter Micah Hoffpauir reached on an error by second baseman Chris Getz and Soriano singled. Two outs later, Lee launched the first pitch from Linebrink to right for his eighth homer. Soto followed with his fourth to tie the game at 5.

"We've been in an offensive funk, and to score some runs late off some really good pitchers is big for us," Lee said. "To lose this game would've been tough. It was a big win for us."

Lou Piniella, who has hinted at lineup changes if the offense doesn't get going, was happy to see more than one or two runs on the Cubs' side. It's been frustrating.

"We cling to the fact that we're going to swing the bats better and hopefully a game like this breaks us loose," Piniella said.

Soriano is key. He was batting .141 in 23 games prior to Thursday. But he has come through in the clutch before: His big hit was his seventh game-winning RBI.

"That might get him a big lift, and we need it," Piniella said. "We're hoping he goes that way more [to right]. [New hitting coach Von Joshua] has talked to him about it, I've talked to him about it. Good things happen when he goes the other way."

It's not for lack of trying.

"I've been struggling for a couple weeks and nothing has worked," Soriano said. "I think I needed a game like this today, and the team needed a game like this today. The monkey is off [our backs] now and everybody can come back tomorrow with new energy."

The only time Soriano is discouraged is when he's not playing.

"The most important thing for me is to keep playing," he said. "I'm not going to play perfect in 162 games. I know stuff is going to happen. I have to know how to get out of a slump. It's going to happen to every player who plays this game."

The Cubs signed their leadoff man to an eight-year contract because they expected big hits.

"Truthfully, he's too talented to have a valley as big as he's been in," Piniella said. "You can have some peaks and valleys, but he's been in a gorge. He's too talented. One thing about the young man, he wants to play and at the same time he works hard. Those are positives."

With the win, the series is even at one win apiece. The two teams will meet again next weekend at U.S. Cellular Field, plus there is one more game to be played, most likely Sept. 3, to make up Tuesday's rained out contest.

The Cubs struggled against White Sox starter Gavin Floyd, who served up one run over seven innings. Carlos Zambrano made one mistake when he hung a slider to Alexei Ramirez, who hit his second homer in as many games in the White Sox seventh to put the South Siders ahead, 3-1.

Soriano ran to the wall and was doused by a beer from the bleachers as he tracked the ball. He just shrugged it off.

"Soriano's a guy, he never puts his head down," Lee said. "He stays positive and keeps going at it, working hard. He's got to come out of it -- he's too talented not to."

"For us to be a good offensive team, we need Soriano to hit," Piniella said. "Let's be perfectly clear about that. We need a few of these other guys to swing like they're capable of hitting."

"I felt like I put all the world behind my back," Soriano said of the relief he felt. "I didn't hit it good, but I hit it in the perfect spot. The team needed a win like this today."

So did Soriano.

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

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