With their season on the verge of slipping away, the Chicago Cubs have been rallying behind the suspension of manager Lou Piniella.
The Cubs try to win three straight games for the first time in a month as they continue their three-game series against the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday.
Chicago (24-31) learned Monday afternoon Piniella would receive a four-game suspension by Major League Baseball for making contact with an umpire during an argument regarding a call at third base on Saturday.
Bench coach Alan Trammell managed the Cubs in a 10-1 win over Atlanta on Sunday, and was again in charge for Monday’s 7-2 series-opening victory over the Brewers.
“This is not me—these are Lou’s wins and our wins,” Trammell said. “It is nice to see us having smiles around here finally. Hopefully we can keep this thing going.”
Chicago had lost a season-high six in a row before Sunday’s victory, and has not won three straight games since a season-high five-game winning streak May 1-6.
Alfonso Soriano went 5-for-5 on Tuesday, and broke open the game with a three-run homer to cap a five-run seventh inning for the Cubs.
“I know I got five hits, but the home run was the most important hit I got,” he said. “We really pulled everything together tonight. Hopefully we will continue to play like we played tonight.”
Soriano has been red-hot lately, homering in three straight games, and going 10-for-15 (.667) in that stretch.
The Cubs now hope to get Ted Lilly (4-3, 3.52 ERA) back on track after a couple of rough starts when he takes the hill on Tuesday.
Lilly allowed three runs or less in eight of his first nine starts, but has yielded at least five runs in each of his last two. The left-hander was tagged for a season-high six runs and seven hits—including three home runs—but did strike out nine in seven innings of a 9-0 loss to Florida on Wednesday.
It was his first loss since April 20.
Lilly pitched well in his only career start against the Brewers, giving up two runs and six hits in seven innings of a 9-3 win at Wrigley Field on April 25.
Despite Monday’s loss, Milwaukee (32-26) still leads second-place St. Louis by 6 1/2 games in the division.
“We had opportunities to score runs and break the game open a number of times,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said. “We just didn’t capitalize.”
Prince Fielder hit his NL-leading 20th homer of the season, and has five home runs in his last eight games. Fielder is 7-for-19 (.368) with four homers in his last four games against the Cubs.
Claudio Vargas (3-1, 3.90) seeks his first win in a month for Milwaukee.
After going 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his first five starts, Vargas is 0-1 with a 4.94 ERA in his last five. The right-hander gave up three runs and six hits in six innings of a 4-3 win over Florida on Thursday, but did not factor in the decision.
Milwaukee is 8-2 in Vargas’ starts.
Vargas struggled in his two appearances against the Cubs this season, yielding three runs in two innings of relief on April 6, and allowing four runs and six hits in four innings as a starter in a 5-4, 12-inning victory on April 23.
He is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in six games—two starts—lifetime against Chicago.