Miami (53-49) at Chicago (60-42)

Fair Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 45° F
  • Game info: 2:20 pm EDT Fri Jul 25, 2008
  • TV: FSFL, WGN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Alfonso Soriano factor has quickly turned around the Chicago Cubs’ once-struggling offense.

The NL Central-leading Cubs look to win their third straight game - all with Soriano back in the lineup - when they continue their four-game series against the Florida Marlins on Friday.

Chicago (60-42) went 16-18 when Soriano was out with a broken left finger, and its NL-leading offense was starting to sputter. The Cubs had dropped five of six, scoring only six runs in those defeats, immediately prior to Soriano’s activation.

Since the All-Star left fielder’s Wednesday return, though, they have scored 16 runs to win two straight games and maintain their one-game division lead over second-place Milwaukee.

In Thursday’s series-opening 6-3 win over the Marlins (53-49), Soriano went 1-for-3 with a double and a run, and helped key Chicago’s four-run fifth inning.

Aramis Ramirez, who had been 2-for-33 (.061) with no RBIs in his previous eight games, added a two-run double.

“With Soriano in the lineup, we’ll be scoring runs more consistently,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

Former closer Ryan Dempster (11-4, 3.05 ERA) picked up his first road win of the season his last time out, and will now look to recover from his first home loss of the year when he takes the ball.

Dempster gave up six hits and struck out seven in eight innings of a 9-0 win at Houston on Sunday after going 0-3 with a 4.03 ERA in his first eight road starts.

In his previous outing - July 13 at Wrigley Field - the right-hander gave up four runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-2 loss to San Francisco. He had been 10-0 with a 2.58 ERA in his first 11 home starts.

Dempster, who pitched a scoreless inning of relief in last week’s All-Star game, was named to his only other All-Star game as a starter with Florida in 2000. This will be his first career start against his former team, but he’s gone 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 10 relief outings against them.

The Marlins lost for the third time in four games Thursday, falling two games back of the first-place New York Mets in the NL East.

All-Star Hanley Ramirez hit a two-run home run, after going 3-for-26 (.115) with no RBIs in his previous seven games.

Josh Johnson (0-0, 3.86) looks to help Florida even the series when he makes his third start of the season.

Johnson, who underwent reconstructive elbow surgery last Aug. 3, has looked solid in his first two starts in nearly a year.

After allowing three runs and six hits in five innings of a 5-4, 11-inning win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 10, the right-hander gave up two runs and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-2, 11-inning victory over Philadelphia on Sunday.

“All in all pretty good,” Johnson said. “I’m keeping them in the game. That’s what my job is.”

This will be Johnson’s first career start against the Cubs. In his only previous appearance against Chicago in 2006, Johnson yielded four runs in one inning of relief to get charged with a 6-3 defeat.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Johnson SD vs. R. Dempster ChC
7-1 Record 17-6
3.61 ERA 2.96
77 K 187
27 BB 76
1.35 WHIP 1.21

Scoreboard

Friday, Jul 25