Rapid Reaction: Cubs 8, Diamondbacks 1
CHICAGO -- After a 3-hour, 40-minute rain delay at the start Friday, the Cubs easily knocked off the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-1 in the opener of the second half.
How it happened: Alfonso Soriano returned from the All-Star break refreshed and energized, tying a career high with five RBIs on two home runs and two doubles. Paul Maholm continued a recent run of solid starts. He gave up one run over seven innings and has allowed just two runs over his last three starts. Anthony Rizzo and Darwin Barney each had two hits.
What it means: With 2½ weeks remaining before the non-waiver trade deadline Soriano is showing that he has something to offer to a contender. If a team is convinced he can keep producing like this, it could come down to how much money the Cubs are asked to absorb on his contract which doesn’t expire until the 2014 season ends. He will make $19 million in each of the next two seasons. Soriano still figures to be hard to move even with his 17 home runs and 53 RBIs.
Outside the box: The break did nothing to slow Rizzo’s momentum as he delivered two hits in his first game back after a four-day break. Rizzo has pushed his early batting average to .365. And despite all of his power, Rizzo stayed within himself Friday, content to get on base with singles instead of swinging from his heels. It was already his sixth multi-hit game and he’s only been around since June 26.
Off beat: Maholm’s seven-inning outing kept most of the relievers down in the muddy bullpen all game. The powerful storm that delayed the game at the outset, flooded the warning track along the third-base side, including the Cubs bullpen. Water was more than ankle deep in most places. Only two Cubs games this season lasted longer than the 3-hour, 40-minute delay.
Up next: The Cubs will send right-hander Ryan Dempster (4-3, 1.99 ERA) to the mound Saturday in the middle game of the three-game series. The Diamondbacks will counter with left-hander Joe Saunders (4-5, 3.44). The game at Wrigley Field was recently changed to a 12:05 p.m. start.