The Chicago Cubs are looking for anything - or anyone - to help them break out of their current offensive slump. That may come sooner than expected.
Soriano, out since June 11 with a broken finger, made two successful minor league rehab starts this week and could be pressed into service after the Cubs (58-42) fell 9-2 at Arizona on Tuesday.
Chicago has lost five of six and seen its lead in the NL Central go from 4 1/2 games at the All-Star break to one ahead of surging Milwaukee. Aside from a 9-0 win over Houston on Sunday, the Cubs have scored six runs in their last five losses and could use a boost from an anxious Soriano, who is hitting .283 with 15 homers and 40 RBIs in 51 games.
“I didn’t feel anything in my hands and nothing in my fingers,” Soriano told the Cubs’ official Web site. “No pain, that’s what’s important.
“It depends on what the team wants. It’s their decision, not my decision.”
Chicago, which went 10-5 with its leadoff man out due to a calf injury in April, is 16-18 during Soriano’s recent absence.
Despite scoring an NL-high 520 runs, Chicago has failed to total more than two in five of its last six contests. All-Star Aramis Ramirez went 0-for-3 on Tuesday and is 0-for-20 since the All-Star break.
“Nobody’s feeling sorry for us,” Cubs’ manager Lou Piniella said, “so we’re just going to have to just play our way out of this thing.”
On Tuesday, Mike Fontenot had an RBI and Daryle Ward added a pinch-hit homer for Chicago, which lost Monday’s series opener 2-0. Ryan Theriot had two hits Tuesday and is batting .422 (27-for-64) in his last 15 contests
The first-place Diamondbacks (50-50) have won two in a row and hold a one-game lead over Los Angeles in the West.
The Cubs will face Arizona’s Doug Davis (3-4, 4.14 ERA), who allowed four earned runs and five hits in three innings of an 8-7, 11-inning loss to the Dodgers on Friday. He is 0-1 with a 5.29 ERA in his last three starts.
Davis is 7-5 with a 3.39 ERA in 13 regular season games against the Cubs and bested Ted Lilly in Arizona’s 8-4 victory over Chicago in Game 2 of the NLDS last season.
Lilly (9-6, 4.49), who allowed six runs in 3 1-3 innings during that playoff contest, takes the mound Wednesday looking for his first win since June 30. He allowed a run and six hits in seven innings but didn’t factor in the decision of a 2-1 loss at Houston on Friday.
The left-hander is 1-2 with a 2.29 ERA in three regular season starts versus Arizona and yielded a run in seven innings of a 3-1 win over the Diamondbacks on May 9.
Arizona, which looks to move above .500 for the first time since June 30, has won three of its last four overall and six straight - including the postseason - over Chicago at home.
Conor Jackson went 3-for-5 with a solo homer and three RBIs and is batting .378 (17-for-45) in his last 10 games.
Orlando Hudson homered Tuesday for Arizona, but left in the eighth inning after being hit in the ankle with a pitch.
“He’s all right,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. “We took x-rays, no fracture, no crack. We’ll see if he’s able to play (Wednesday).”
The 6-foot-11 right-hander, who was 4-2 with a 2.98 ERA in 17 saves for the Nationals, allowed a hit in a scoreless inning of relief for Arizona on Tuesday. He is expected to serve mostly as a set-up man for closer Brandon Lyon.
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