In a critical series between the top two teams in the NL Central, the Chicago Cubs will gladly welcome back their All-Star left fielder.
Soriano strained his right quadriceps running to third base in a loss to the New York Mets on Aug. 5 and was placed on the 15-day DL the next day. Chicago (66-63) won just eight of its next 19 games without its star leadoff hitter.
“He’s ready to go,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella told the team’s official Web site. “He’s worked hard, and we could wait another week, but he’s not going to get any better than he is.”
Soriano is batting .297 with 18 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 104 games this season, including a .314 average with a homer and six doubles in 11 contests against the Brewers (65-65).
This is the final series of the season between these rivals that have occupied first place in the Central nearly the entire season. Chicago has won seven of 12 over Milwaukee, and the teams have split six games at Wrigley.
The Cubs have a 1 1/2-game lead over the Brewers in the division, but Piniella is trying not to put too much emphasis on this series.
“I think it’s a little early,” Piniella said. “It’s an important series, but it’s still early. Putting it in perspective, it’s still August.”
The series is taking on a bit more importance for Milwaukee, which is a major league-worst 7-16 this month and trying desperately to get back on track.
“This is the biggest series for us all year,” shortstop J.J. Hardy told the team’s official Web site. “And it’s fun to play games that mean this much.”
The Brewers were 14 games above .500 on May 9, but fell back to the break-even mark for the first time since April 11 following Sunday’s 5-4 loss to San Francisco. Milwaukee has dropped four straight and 11 of its last 15 away from Miller Park.
Ryan Braun, a leading candidate for NL Rookie of the Year, hit his 25th homer on Sunday, and is 12-for-26 (.462) with two home runs and six RBIs in six games against Chicago this season.
Prince Fielder returned to the Milwaukee lineup Sunday after serving his two-game suspension for a confrontation with home plate umpire Wally Bell on Aug. 12. The NL home run leader with 39, Fielder is 16-for-49 (.327) with five homers and 13 RBIs against the Cubs this season.
He is 2-for-7 with a home run lifetime against Tuesday’s starter Rich Hill (7-7, 3.67 ERA), who gave up two runs, six hits and struck out 10 in seven innings of a 4-2, 10-inning win over the Giants on Wednesday.
The left-hander has allowed just three runs in 14 innings over his last two starts and has given up two runs or less in six of his last eight outings, but is just 2-1 in those games.
Hill is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts against the Brewers this season, including an 0-1 mark in two outings at Wrigley Field, where he’s allowed nine runs in 9 2-3 innings.
Chicago first baseman Derrek Lee hit his second career inside-the-park homer in Sunday’s 5-4 loss to NL West-leading Arizona. The two-time All-Star is hitting .400 (20-for-50) with a homer, seven doubles and 10 RBIs against the Brewers this season.
Lee is batting .455 (15-for-33) with three home runs and five doubles against Tuesday’s starter Jeff Suppan (8-11, 4.85), who is seeking his first win in more than two months.
The right-hander gave up three runs and seven hits in seven innings of a 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks on Wednesday to drop his second straight start. Suppan, who is 0-4 with a 4.76 ERA in 11 starts since beating Kansas City on June 22, has not lost three straight starts in a single season since April 27-May 8, 2003, with Pittsburgh.
Suppan is 0-5 with a 7.05 ERA in his last eight road starts, but had one of his best outings of the season at Wrigley Field on April 24, allowing eight hits in eight shutout innings of a 4-1 victory.
He is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA in two starts against the Cubs this season.