Soriano's late blast lifts Cubs to sweep of Bucs

Soriano's late blast lifts Cubs to sweep of Bucs

Soriano's late blast lifts Cubs to sweep of Bucs
PITTSBURGH -- Alfonso Soriano is the Cubs' primetime hitter.

Soriano hit a tie-breaking two-run home run in the eighth and rookies Josh Vitters and Anthony Recker each hit solo shots to lift the Cubs to a 4-2 victory Sunday over the Pirates and complete a sweep of the three-game series at PNC Park.

The Cubs have won three in a row on the road for the first time since mid-June, and two of those wins came eight miles from Wrigley Field at U.S. Cellular Field during an Interleague series with the White Sox. The three-game streak also comes after their dustup against the Nationals on Thursday. The fracas seems to have sparked the Cubs.

"You don't condone stuff like that," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said, "but for whatever reason, in my 30 years in the game, [fights] do bring teams together and you start playing better and winning ballgames. Is it coincidence or not, you never know. It gets guys going, especially in these kind of days when a team has been struggling like we have been."

Soriano, who is closing in on 100 RBIs for the first time since 2005, connected off Jason Grilli (1-6) and drove in Anthony Rizzo, who had singled, for his 28th home run of the season.

"I had a bad day my first three at-bats, first two at-bats," Soriano said. "The last at-bat, I said to myself, 'Try to look for something for a strike,' and he threw me a fastball and I made a good swing."

Soriano, who didn't hit his first homer of the season until May 15, has 94 RBIs, the most in a single season since he drove in 95 in 2006 with the Nationals.

"It's like he's on a mission right now," Sveum said. "Since May 15, him and [the Brewers' Ryan] Braun are neck and neck in RBIs and homers. Sori's had one heck of a 4 1/2 months to this point. It's been pretty spectacular."

Soriano is definitely not feeling his age.

"I'm 36 years old, working, and I don't feel like 36," Soriano said. "I have my hands and my power, and that's more important. I want to prove to my teammates and people outside that I'm 36 but I don't feel like I'm 36 and I can do a lot of things in this game."

Cubs rookie Chris Rusin was able to rebound after getting roughed up by the Nationals in his last start, when he gave up five runs in one inning. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the lefty to put that behind him, and Rusin did. He was in line for his first win, scattering five hits over five innings in his third big league start. One of those hits came in the Pirates' first, when Andrew McCutchen hit his 25th home run into the left-field seats.

Vitters ended an 0-for-27 skid in the Chicago fourth with his second home run. One out later, Recker -- acquired from the Athletics on Aug. 27 and making his first start -- belted his first Major League home run, driving a pitch into the shrubbery in straightaway center.

Recker's father was at the game, making the trip from Allentown, Pa. Unfortunately for Recker's fiancee, Kelly Shepardson, she had a flat tire getting from downtown Pittsburgh to the airport to catch a flight to Houston, where the Cubs are headed next. Fortunately, the delay allowed her to listen to the game on the radio and she heard Recker's homer. How do we know all this? Shepardson reported it on Twitter.

"She keeps up to date on everything," Recker said.

Maybe someday she can announce that Recker made the Cubs' 2013 roster. He will be a candidate.

"You can't ever have enough catching and depth," Sveum said. "He's a nice kid who can receive, throw and run into a home run."

The Pirates tied the game in the seventh, as Brock Holt tripled to lead off against Manuel Corpas. Two batters later, Corpas was pulled for James Russell, who got ahead 0-2 to Garrett Jones and was then called for a balk, which allowed Holt to trot home and knot the game at 2-2.

That set up Soriano's heroics. Russell (7-1) ended up with the win, and Carlos Marmol recorded the save after loading the bases in the ninth.

The Cubs have won three straight for the first time since July 28-30. The Pirates are still alive in the National League Wild Card race.

"Give these guys a lot of credit," Sveum said. "After what happened in Washington [and getting swept], to come in here against a really good team and some good starting pitching, we put some at-bats together."

Said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle: "We're not doing enough as a team to win games. They played better defense than us, they pitched better than us, they hit better than us for three games."

The Cubs celebrated the start of the pro football season, wearing their favorite NFL jerseys on Sunday. Sveum chose the Raiders' Kenny Stabler, Rizzo had Dan Marino's No. 13 Dolphins jersey, and Soriano picked Deion Sanders' prime time top from his days with the Falcons. Soriano's seemed appropriate.

"I know the work I do to put up those numbers," Soriano said. "I know I'm healthy, and when I'm healthy, I can produce. What I do, I do for fun. I love this game and that's what I like to do."

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.