Cubs take two as key offseason additions pay dividends



By The Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – Not even Ernie Banks, baseball’s most professed lover of the doubleheader, could dislike this. The Chicago Cubs won two games in one day and had to play only 12 innings.

Jason Marquis limited the Pirates to four hits over eight innings to win his fourth consecutive start and Alfonso Soriano homered for the second time in two days after not connecting all season, leading Chicago to a 7-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

A half hour before that game started, the Cubs finished an 8-6 win in a game suspended by a persistent rain when they led 6-5 in the middle of the seventh Tuesday night. Soriano led off that game with his first homer for Chicago and Cliff Floyd’s two-run shot off Jonah Bayliss (2-2) keyed a four-run rally just before the rain came.

“We’ve got a special group here, guys that can do a lot of damage,” Marquis said.

Finally, the Cubs are seeing some results from that $300 million they tossed around during the offseason to add and retain talent. Soriano ($136 million) was 8-for-15 in the three-game series and homered twice, including a go-ahead drive Wednesday in the third inning off Ian Snell (2-2) that made it 2-1.

    Subscribe to our sports newsletter!

    Marquis ($21 million) struck out five and walked none – compared to Snell’s four walks – and was touched only for Ryan Doumit’s two-out solo homer in the second while lowering his ERA to 2.09. And Floyd ($3 million) had the big hit in the suspended game.

    “Jason’s been lights out for us,” Derrek Lee said. “He’s pitched pretty much that way every start. Outside of the home run, they didn’t get much of anything.”

    Marquis pitched for the first time since his former Cardinals teammate, reliever Josh Hancock, died early Sunday in a highway wreck while the Cubs were in town. Marquis was shaken by his friend’s death, but said going to the mound again was therapeutic.

    “The tragedy that happened obviously isn’t a good thing,” Marquis said. “Josh is in my prayers and my thoughts. When you step between the lines, it’s almost like a safe haven. You’re able to escape and go out there and concentrate on what you have to do.”

    More good signs for the Cubs: Lee doubled in a run during the first inning, giving him at least one double in eight consecutive games. He also had six hits in the final two games of the series and has reached base in every Cubs game this season.

    “We’re starting to see some positive things,” manager Lou Piniella said after a 5-1 road trip to St. Louis and Pittsburgh. “If we continue to swing the bats and take advantage of opportunities, you can see this thing starting to come together.”

    The Cubs took advantage of Snell’s wildness to score two runs in the fifth and open a 4-1 lead without needing to put a ball in play. Snell walked four, hit Floyd with a pitch to force in a run and threw a run-scoring wild pitch. Floyd left after being struck near the knee, but was not injured.