Cubs rally behind Soriano after loss to Red Sox

Cubs rally behind Soriano after loss to Red Sox

Cubs rally behind Soriano after loss to Red Sox
CHICAGO -- The 40,766 fans at Wrigley Field may not approve of what Alfonso Soriano did in the sixth inning Saturday night, but his manager and teammates backed him up.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a two-run home run to back Jon Lester and lift the Red Sox to a 4-3 Interleague victory over the Cubs, but most fans will likely blame Soriano for the loss.

The Cubs trailed, 3-0, with two outs in the sixth and had runners at first and second. Soriano lined the ball sharply to third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who bobbled it but recovered in time to throw him out easily. That's because Soriano didn't run it out, thinking Middlebrooks had caught the ball.

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"That's one of those things where 100 percent of every player in the history of baseball would do the same thing," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "I know I did it a lot, a lot of times in my career. You hit a ball that hard and hit it right at somebody and you think it's in the glove and you put your head down, and unfortunately it gets away from him."

Need proof? Do a YouTube search for Sean Casey bloopers. He lined the ball to left once, thought the third baseman got it, and it actually went into left field. Casey was thrown out at first by the left fielder.

At Wrigley, the fans booed as the inning ended and resumed when Soriano took his place in left field.

"It's unfair, because it's a hard line drive into the third baseman's glove," Soriano said. "I'm happy my teammates and my manager and the coaches support me. They know I'm working hard to be a better player and be a better teammate."

Why don't the fans know that?

"I don't think they understand the game," Soriano said. "It's a line drive, nothing you can do about it. If it's a ground ball, they can do whatever they want. I don't know what [the fans] want."

Ryan Dempster's locker is next to Soriano's, and he heard the conversation.

"I would've run the same way, Sori," Dempster said.

Ever since Soriano joined the Cubs, signing an eight-year, $136 million contract in November 2006, he's had to deal with incredibly high expectations.

"That contract comes into play sometimes with that kind of reaction," Sveum said. "The fact of the matter is everybody in this clubhouse knows how hard Sori works and how hard he's played this year, and the balls he's run out and the work he puts in to be a better outfielder. No matter what those legs feel like every day, he's gone out there every day if it's optional hitting.

"There's not a guy in that clubhouse who wouldn't give the shirt off their back for him," Sveum said.

Ultimately, the Cubs lost because of their yearlong struggle against lefties, which now includes Lester (4-4), who struck out eight over 6 2/3 innings. Chicago now is 3-14 against left-handed starters for the season.

Luis Valbuena made the game close with one out in the Chicago seventh, when he hit a three-run homer, his first since being recalled Thursday from Triple-A Iowa. It wasn't enough as the Cubs lost for the 23rd time in the last 30 games. Twelve of those 23 losses have been by one run.

Jeff Samardzija (5-5) took the loss and another step in his maturation. One thing he has to learn how to do is tame his "football mentality," Sveum said.

"He's still learning how to calm himself down and not throw what [coach Mike] Borzello calls a 'gorilla pitch' sometimes when things aren't going too well," Sveum said. "His numbers at this ballpark have been pretty phenomenal this season."

The Red Sox made him work. David Ortiz walked with two outs in the Red Sox first but was thrown out at home trying to score on Saltalamacchia's double on a perfect 9-6-2 relay. Ortiz had no problem in the fourth, when he doubled and Saltalamacchia followed with his 12th home run.

With one out in the Boston sixth, Samardzija walked both Ortiz and Saltalamacchia and was then lifted for Randy Wells, who served up an RBI single to Middlebrooks. Scott Podsednik added an RBI single in the seventh.

"As advertised, you know," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said of Samardzija. "Great arm. He was just missing with his breaking ball the first two innings. Otherwise he would have had a lot fewer pitches to throw. He's pretty good."

The pitch count was the difference as the right-hander was over 50 pitches by the third inning.

"They've got some great hitters, and that's not saying they're going to be great hitters -- they've been great hitters for a while, with [Adrian] Gonzalez and Ortiz and [Dustin] Pedroia and those guys," Samardzija said. "I knew I had to come out and be on my game and make my pitches. I just needed to get a couple quicker outs and get a couple quicker innings to get our offense back in the dugout."

The Cubs thought they had something brewing in the eighth, when Darwin Barney lofted a ball to left. The umpires ruled Daniel Nava made the catch, but the Cubs players who watched the replay felt the call could've gone either way.

"From the dugout, it looked like it did [bounce]," Sveum said. "It's not the easiest call in the world."

One thing that is certain is the Cubs players' overwhelming support of Soriano.

"Anything Alfonso does when he's playing with me in my lineup, I have no problems with," Samardzija said. "I hope he's in there every day when I pitch, and I hope he plays left and I hope he hits third, fourth, fifth or sixth. ... He cares, and you know he's trying."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.