- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO – Let the rest of baseball talk about the Albert Pujols revival in Southern California.
Alfonso Soriano’s resurrection in the North Side has been every bit as impressive. And the Chicago Cubs left fielder is doing it on a sore knee all while contributing on defense as well.
The veteran had a memorable sixth inning Tuesday first with a diving catch to end a scoring threat. He not only laid out on the grass in left center to rob the San Diego Padres’ Chris Denorfia of extra bases, he then doubled off pitcher Eric Stults at second base to end the half inning.
He was the third batter to the plate in the bottom of the inning and crushed a solo home run to center field in the Cubs’ eventual 5-3 victory, their second consecutive after a 12-game losing streak.
“I’m feeling so good at home plate right now,” Soriano said. “I know I didn’t hit (a home run) in like six weeks but sometimes it’s so difficult to hit one. Now I feel so good and I’m happy to help the team to win.”
Soriano was actually the only Cubs hitter to produce in the recent losing streak. All seven of his home runs have come over the past 13 games, with nearly all of those ending in defeats. He didn’t hit a home run over the team’s first 30 games.
But he’s rolling now. He is batting .300 in May with those seven home runs and 17 RBIs. Since May 15, the day of his first home run of the season, he’s batting .320 with 11 RBIs, a .354 on-base percentage and a .783 slugging percentage.
Pujols, who also started the season on a major home-run drought, is batting .321 since May 15, with six home runs, 14 RBIs, a .381 on-base percentage and a .679 slugging percentage.
Nobody really expects Soriano to keep pace with Pujols over the long haul, but for now the slow-starting sluggers are fairly even as they spring back to life.
Manager Dale Sveum has always had faith that Soriano would snap out of his funk. Now that he has, Sveum has him hitting in the cleanup spot.
“Hopefully when the season’s over that media guide doesn’t lie,” Sveum said. “When you get enough at-bats for these guys who have had a track record like Soriano you look up sometimes and they might be struggling for a month and you look at the end of the year and they have their 30 home runs and 90-100 RBIs. It’s the way these guys are.”
Now, though, Soriano is adding defense in to the mix too. He can’t track down balls into the gaps with the best of them but he is getting better reads on balls and has improved his decision making in the outfield.
“I was working hard in spring training with (outfield coach) Dave McKay and I’m working hard in the season too,” he said. “I try to get better every day and prove to myself that I can play very good defense. That’s all I do is to work hard every day to get better.”