CHICAGO (AP)—Criticized for his defense earlier in the week after he misplayed a fly ball that cost the Chicago Cubs a win, Alfonso Soriano responded Wednesday night with a hit that sent his team to victory.
“He has that ability just to stay up and keep on trucking, performing,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said after Soriano’s 10th-inning single gave Chicago a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers and completed a three-game sweep.
“I was happy for him. A big clutch hit and it got us the win.”
Soriano lost a fly ball in the sun with two outs in the ninth inning Sunday at Pittsburgh, allowing the Pirates to tie a game they would eventually win.
Maybe that’s why his teammates seemed extra enthusiastic when they came racing out of the dugout Wednesday night to mob him.
“It is great. They know that I am working very hard every day to be better and better,” Soriano said. “I love what I do and I believe in myself all the time.”
Dodgers starter Derek Lowe, winless since April 23, was on his way to a victory after pitching seven shutout innings with two walks and five strikeouts. Jonathan Broxton struck out the side in the eighth.
But Saito, who blew his third save in 11 chances, walked Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez in the ninth before Kosuke Fukudome reached on an infield single to load the bases when Dodgers first baseman James Loney made a nice diving stop on his high hopper. Fukudome was ruled safe at first after Saito raced over to cover the bag and take the flip from Loney.
“I just missed the base,” Saito said through a translator.
“He never got to the base. I couldn’t see that from the dugout. I thought the ball beat him and that’s what my contention was, but he never got to the base,” said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who went to first to question the call.
Lowe knew what Saito was feeling after letting the win slip away.
“I really think that if anybody can understand about losing and frustrations, it’s me and that’s what makes it easier,” said Lowe, a former closer. “You root for him and games like that are going to happen. I’ve blown a lot of games in my career, so I understand the feeling.”
The Dodgers, who scored one run in each of the three games at Wrigley Field, used a bout of two-out wildness by Carlos Zambrano in the fourth inning to score on a bases-loaded walk.
Zambrano allowed six hits, walked four and had a costly hit batter during his season-high 130-pitch outing over eight innings and left trailing 1-0.
“I felt good, felt strong to finish the eighth inning,” Zambrano said.
“I don’t know what happened. I lost my command and it’s weird,” Zambrano said.
Andre Ethier and Martin singled with two outs in the eighth and when Theriot made an error on Loney’s grounder to shortstop, the Dodgers had the bases loaded again.
Piniella visited the mound but left Zambrano in before he struck out Kemp with his final pitch of the night.
“It was a cool night and we’ve been watching his pitch counts very carefully all year,” Piniella said. “So next time he’s out there, we’ll shorten him up if we need to.’
Zambrano, who was 4-for-5 at the plate against Pittsburgh in his previous
Lowe pitched a one-hit shutout against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Aug. 31, 2005. The lone hit was an infield single by leadoff hitter Jerry Hairston in the first. … Dodgers 2B Jeff Kent, who was out of the lineup Tuesday with back spasms, missed his second straight game. … Dodgers INF Tony Abreu underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right hip Wednesday in Colorado. He will be out at least three months. … The pitch count was the second highest of Zambrano’s career. He threw 136 against the Phillies in May 2005.