Breakout year coming for Fukudome?

Breakout year coming for Fukudome?

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Lou Piniella has predicted this could be a breakout year for outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who delivered a game-winning hit on Wednesday.

Fukudome followed Ryan Theriot's two-run single in the eighth inning with one of his own to help the Cubs rally to beat the Brewers, 7-6. It was Fukudome's first game-winning RBI of the season. He ranked third on the team with seven game-winning RBIs in 2009.

"He's been working hard on his swing and he's been making real good solid contact and good professional at-bats up there," Piniella said of the Japanese outfielder, now in his third season in the Majors. "I think the fact that this is his third year in the league and he's more acclimated to day-night baseball, I'm hoping this will be his breakout year in the National League."

Fukudome also singled in the first and hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh. He's now batting .417, and improved his career March/April numbers to .342.

"I'm really settled down this year, so that's probably the best reason I'm doing well," Fukudome said through interpreter Hiro Aoyama.

Settled down personally and professionally?

"Yes, everything -- except the interpreter," he said, joking.

Fukudome won the Cubs' fans over in his first home opener when he hit a game-tying three-run homer, also against the Brewers, in 2008. On Wednesday, Wrigley Field patrons were chanting his name again in the eighth.

"I felt really good to hear them calling my name out there in the field," he said. "I do need to do my best so they will continue to cheer for me."