Offense grounded as Cubs fall in finale

Offense grounded as Cubs fall in finale

Offense grounded as Cubs fall in finale

PHOENIX -- The Cubs could've used Alfonso Soriano on Thursday but will have to figure out how to win without him.

Soriano was pulled from the original lineup because of a pending trade to the Yankees, and without his bat, the Cubs mustered six hits, dropping a 3-1 decision to the D-backs, who are trying to keep pace with the Dodgers in the National League West.

The Cubs' players may have been a little distracted during the game at the news that Soriano was leaving. He addressed his teammates after the game, then boarded a red-eye flight to New York. The deal was expected to be finalized on Friday, and the Yankees are home against the Rays.

"We got everybody together to say our goodbyes," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's emotional for all of us. You don't usually gather teams together that often when people are traded to say goodbyes. That just shows the kind of person he is."

Carlos Villanueva, who took the loss, said it was tough to focus on the game after hearing about the possible trade.

"You're impacted from a personal point of view because he's a guy who has been here for a number of years and everybody loves him here," Villanueva said. "A lot of the guys got very emotional and with good reason. ... It's going to be a big void to fill in our clubhouse. We wish him all the best."

Sveum got a call from president of baseball operations Theo Epstein about four hours before the start of the game. Soriano, originally scheduled to bat fourth, has batted .264 with 181 home runs and 526 RBIs in seven seasons with the Cubs, and finishes 11th on the team's home run chart. He is 11 hits shy of becoming the 273rd player in Major League history to reach 2,000 hits.

"He's put together a pretty good run here," Sveum said. "Last year, at 36 years old, he hit 32 [home runs] and drove in 108 [runs]. When he's on the field, he's lived up to his media guide, so to speak, besides the stolen bases that he had early in his career, the 40-40 year. That's the problem with stuff like that is people want you to have a 40-40 year all the time."

The Cubs didn't need Soriano to steal any bases Thursday, just provide a little offense against Wade Miley, who gave up five hits and walked three over 7 2/3 innings.

"Miley pitched a good game, he kept the ball down -- he sinks the ball and all his offspeed stuff was really good," Sveum said. "We held them to seven hits and three runs. That's a pretty good job. Other than that, we didn't get much going. There are some pretty emotional guys today during [batting practice] and after."

Chicago's bullpen was overworked, and before the game, Sveum joked that a complete game would be perfect. But Villanueva needed 37 pitches to get through the first inning and gutted out five innings. Adam Eaton walked to lead off the first, and scored on Aaron Hill's double to left. Arizona then loaded the bases on two more walks, and Villanueva struck out Wil Nieves to end the inning.

"He throws a lot of offspeed stuff," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said of Villanueva. "We did a pretty good job actually early on to kind of take that away from him. Then he started throwing more fastballs and he got in a groove a little bit."

Nieves doubled with one out in the fourth and scored on Cliff Pennington's double for a 2-0 lead. Hill smacked a solo home run in the fifth to make it 3-0.

The Cubs finally tallied in the seventh on Welington Castillo's RBI double, driving in Cole Gillespie, who walked.

Rookie Junior Lake, one of the players Soriano mentored, collected a bunt single in the sixth, becoming the first Cubs player to begin his career with a hit in his first seven games since Jerome Walton in 1989. Lake also is the first to get 15 hits in his first seven games since George Kelly in 1930.

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.