Alfonso Soriano is certainly making his presence felt since returning from the disabled list.
Soriano is hitting .344 (21-for-61) with five doubles, five homers and 12 RBIs in 14 games after a broken left ring finger forced him to miss 34 games. The Cubs (68-46) won only 16 games without their All-Star left fielder, and they’re 10-4 with him back in the lineup.
Soriano was impressive again Tuesday, going 3-for-5 with a double, a homer and four RBIs to power an 11-7 win over the Astros (54-58). His three-run shot in the bottom of the seventh broke a 7-all tie, and was his team-leading 20th of the year. He didn’t reach that total last season - his first in Chicago - until Sept. 3.
“The most important thing to me is to stay healthy,” said Soriano, who was held hitless for only the second time in the last 14 games in Monday’s rain-shortened 2-0 loss to Houston. “My health is good. I can do whatever I can to help the team win. I’m very happy I’m back in the lineup.”
Soriano, who was also on the DL with a calf injury from April 16-May 1, will now try to help the Cubs take the three-game set from the Astros before Chicago opens a key home series with division-rival St. Louis on Friday.
The Cubs hope Jason Marquis (6-7, 4.68 ERA) can get his first win in seven starts Wednesday.
The right-hander is 0-4 with a 5.25 ERA in his last six outings, allowing five homers in the last three. However, he hasn’t received much help, getting only six runs of support in the six starts with five coming in a 9-6 win over Florida on July 27.
Marquis hasn’t earned a victory since June 21, when he gave up five runs and eight hits in an 11-7 win over the Chicago White Sox.
On Friday, he was reached for three runs and eight hits in six innings of a 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh, while the Cubs mustered just five hits.
Marquis is 1-1 with a 6.23 ERA in his last five starts against the Astros.
Lance Berkman, Houston’s leader with a .332 batting average and second with 22 homers and 76 RBIs, looks to return to the lineup after entering Tuesday’s loss in the seventh inning. The All-Star first baseman lined out to center in his only at-bat, and is 0-for-12 over the last four games after going 12-for-31 (.387) with three RBIs in the previous nine.
He’ll try to shake out of his recent slump while facing Marquis, against whom he is hitting .487 (19-for-39) with five doubles and one homer.
The Astros will look for Brandon Backe (6-10, 4.72), the team leader in losses, to beat the Cubs for the first time in over three years.
The right-hander is 0-1 with a 5.09 ERA in three meetings with the Cubs since beating them at Wrigley on May 25, 2005.
Backe didn’t get much help in the last matchup July 20, allowing four runs and eight hits with eight strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings as Houston was six-hit in a 9-0 loss.
He hasn’t received a decision in his last two starts, allowing five runs and 14 hits with nine strikeouts in 11 1-3 innings.