Having seen all he could take after six straight losses, Cubs manager Lou Piniella shook up his lineup and issued a warning of other changes to come.
Now, after Saturday night, he can't wait to see more.
Hitting a season-high five home runs—three by Alfonso Soriano, one by winning pitcher Jason Marquis and the 20th for Mark DeRosa— the Cubs claimed their bats from the lost-and-found in a 14-9 victory over the Reds.
Forget that the Cubs' bullpen made the game unnecessarily close with eight runs in the final two innings, this game belongs to the offense.
Those 14 runs? It's the exact number they scored during the entire six-game offensive siesta, which prompted Piniella's stern warning: "If these guys want to stay in the lineup, [they better] swing the bats."
Soriano, who came into the game with just six hits in his last 33 at-bats, must have been listening because he homered in the third, fifth and sixth innings to become just the sixth Cub to have multiple three-home games.
"That's part of the game," Soriano said of his streakiness. "I come to the game every day with the same energy. I don't lose my confidence or concentration."
Soriano was also the home run hero of the Cubs' last victory—3-2 Aug. 29 over Philadelphia—with a game-winning, seventh-inning blast.
"It's amazing, when he hits, our team responds and seems to do well," Piniella said.
The mostly blue-clad sellout crowd of 41,204 not only gave Soriano repeated standing ovations but urged him to take a curtain call from the dugout, which he wisely refused to do in a visiting ballpark.
Meanwhile, Marquis (10-8) took care of the opposition, again. He lasted 71/3 innings and one of the two runs he allowed scored after he had left the game.
"I feel good with where I'm at," he said. "I've been working hard and it's paying off."
In his last three starts, Marquis has given up only four runs in 20 innings—and one of those he lost because of the slumping offense.
The first casualties of the produce-to-play lineup were center fielder Jim Edmonds (.189 in his last 14 games) and right fielder Kosuke Fukudome (.193 in August). They were replaced by Reed Johnson and Micah Hoffpauir, who may get extended looks.
"I took Kosuke and Edmonds out, but, believe me, there are other people who are struggling," Piniella said. "This is the time where the people who are getting the job done are the people who are going to play."
Hoffpauir, who impressed Piniella in spring training, hit .362 with 25 homers at Triple A Iowa.
"You look at his production at Triple A. He, obviously, deserves an opportunity," Piniella said. "We did the same thing with [ Geovany] Soto last year."
Hoffpauir, who drove in the Cubs' second run with a groundout, said Piniella's confidence "gives you a little boost and makes you want to show him he's not mistaken."
In the end, for one night, Cubs fans—in Chicago and Cincinnati—can rest easier.
"I hear it, [that] the city is panicking. We don't feel any of it," said Derrek Lee, who contributed four hits. "Nobody says 'Hey we're panicking, let's win.' We're just concerned about ourselves in the clubhouse and getting back on the right track."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun