If the last two games are any indication, this may be the season Cubs fans see the real Alfonso Soriano.
Soriano hit a game-tying two-run homer in the seventh and Derrek Lee smacked a go-ahead two-run single with one out in the eighth to lift the Cubs to a 7-5 victory Saturday over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"We hung in there," Lou Piniella said.
It was Soriano's second homer in as many games and tied the game at 5 with two outs in the seventh off former Cubs pitcher Bob Howry. The count was 3-1 when home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook called a strike on a pitch Soriano thought was a ball. The left fielder stepped back into the box and launched the next pitch into the left-center-field bleachers.
"He called a strike so I thought if [Howry] throws my pitch in the zone, I want to swing at it," Soriano said. "If he throws a ball, I'll take the ball. He threw a very good pitch, middle away, and I took a good swing."
Soriano, now hitting .303, has been more patient and able to recognize his pitch. Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo wants Soriano to keep his lower body quiet, which helps him stay back and see the ball better. If he's relaxed at the plate, not worried about his knee, swinging at strikes, the end result can be 40 homers, 100 RBIs.
"People don't realize how hurt 'Sori' was last year and he played through it," Lee said of the left fielder, who needed arthroscopic knee surgery last September. "His numbers were down and we appreciated that he was out on the field. I think you're going to see a lot better year from 'Sori' because he's 100 percent."
When Soriano took the field after his homer Saturday, the left-field bleacher fans stood and chanted his name.
"That's what I want to be is working hard to make the fans happy," Soriano said. "They deserve it. They support the team every day. That's what I want to do is play hard."
"Soriano's starting to get that power swing back," Piniella said. "That's what we need from him."
It was the second straight come-from-behind victory for the Cubs, who have lost their share in late innings in the first month.
With the game tied at 5 in the eighth against Juan Gutierrez (0-3), Geovany Soto singled and pinch-hitter Ryan Dempster popped up to first baseman Adam LaRoche on a bunt attempt. Pinch-runner Tyler Colvin replaced Soto, and he moved up as Gutierrez's pickoff throw to first sailed over LaRoche for an error. Ryan Theriot and Kosuke Fukudome both walked to load the bases, and Lee lined the ball to left, only his fifth hit in his last 27 at-bats. It was enough.
"Two comeback wins in a row, that's pretty big for an offense that was struggling for a while," Lee said. "We just haven't been able to do it that often."
Lee also broke up a potential double play with his slide into second on Marlon Byrd's grounder.
"Derrek plays hard all the time," Piniella said. "That's something he does routine."
Lee is one of a few Cubs sluggers glad to see the calendar turn to May after scuffling to hit .205 in April.
"I know what I need to do," Lee said. "It's just a matter of doing it. Even though you know what you need to do at the plate, it doesn't click in right away. You keep tinkering and one day you step in the plate and it locks in."
Sean Marshall (1-1) picked up the win with two innings of relief while Carlos Marmol loaded the bases in the ninth, yet held on for his fourth save. It was the Cubs' 13th game to be decided by two runs or fewer this season.
The D-backs continued their slugfest at Wrigley Field, as Mark Reynolds hit two homers and drove in two runs and Justin Upton added a two-run shot off Carlos Silva, who made his shortest start of the season. Arizona has hit eight home runs in the three games in Chicago so far.
"I was fighting the whole game," Silva said. "I didn't have good stuff today. The last two homers, on a day like this, it's tough to keep those balls in the ballpark. It's a different day than when I threw out there [Monday]. The good thing is we won -- that's what matters."
Silva gave up a season-high five runs, three walks and eight hits over five innings. He's been bothered by a sore right wrist, injured while batting in his start in New York, and will get an extra day before his next game.
"When it's my day to pitch, I want to do well, of course," Silva said, "but the most important thing is to get the 'W' for my team."