"LaTroy throws really hard," Soto said. "He throws a good slider. I fouled a couple pitches off and I was actually seeing the ball pretty good. After I drew the walk, I was pretty happy with myself."
So was Cubs manager Lou Piniella.
"I told Soto on the way out that the at-bat he had off Hawkins was as good as he's had all year," Piniella said.
"I don't care about the hits -- it's the walks," said Hawkins, who struggled when forced into the closer role for the Cubs in 2004-05. "That was the turning point, walking [Soto], especially with two outs. That's not acceptable. You can beat me swinging the bat, but I don't like walking guys."
Did the experience bring back any bad memories of his days at Wrigley?
"No, not at all," said Hawkins, who was a favorite target of the boo birds. "This place made me a better person."
Jeff Gray (1-0), called up from Triple-A Iowa earlier in the day, picked up the win, although he had an ugly inning of relief. He gave up back-to-back RBI triples to Carlos Gomez and Alcides Escobar in the eighth, which is still a trouble spot after eight games.
"We're working on that," Piniella said about finding a reliable setup pitcher. "I've got some thoughts, and we'll share them down the road."
The ideas may stem from the changes coming when Ted Lilly rejoins the team later this month. Stay tuned.
Carlos Marmol struck out the side in the ninth, including Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, for his third save. Maybe Marmol should pitch the eighth and ninth?
"No comment," Marmol said, laughing. "Like I say, every time, I'll take the ball whenever they give it to me. If I have to throw one inning, two innings, I'll do it."
The way Marmol looked on Wednesday, Piniella would like him to throw the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth.
"That was impressive," Piniella said of the right-hander. "That was really, really good stuff. Really. He was up there in the high 90s and throwing strikes and his breaking ball [was] doing what his breaking ball does. It's really good to see."
Soto not only walked at a key point, but hit his first homer in the game, connecting in the fifth. He's on a better pace than a year ago, when he didn't homer at all in 16 April games. Soto also survived a collision at home with Fielder in the second. The Brewers' first baseman is not a small man.
"You just hope he slides," Soto said.
Cubs starter Randy Wells struck out seven over 6 1/3 innings and did not get a decision. He was charged with four runs on 10 hits, and started off well by striking out the side in the first. The one mulligan came in the fifth when he walked Milwaukee pitcher Dave Bush with two outs and a runner at first. The Brewers took a 2-1 lead on Corey Hart's two-run double.
"You can't do that anywhere, much less the Major Leagues," Wells said of the walk. "It forced me to face a guy like Rickie Weeks. ... He didn't look too good on the sliders early in the game, so I stuck with that, but I think I threw one too many to him. I got the count to 3-2 and hung one. That was the turning point."
Just ask Hawkins about those ill-timed walks.