Remember last September when Alfonso Soriano almost single-handedly pushed the Cubs into the playoffs?
Maybe he's starting a month earlier this season.
Oh, and three walks and four stolen bases.
So that's why the Cubs are paying him $13 million this year, for streaks like this one that included the game-winning, three-run homer in the seventh inning of Tuesday's 11-7 victory over the Astros.
"I [live] for that moment," he said. "That's what I want to do, help the team to win."
It was very reminiscent of a September that included a .320 average, a Cubs-record 14 homers for the month and 27 RBIs.
"He can change the game with one swing," teammate Mark DeRosa said. "He's one of the big stars in the game. More than his ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark, he breeds success with charisma and character. He's a huge part of what we are."
Actually, so is DeRosa, who wasn't bad himself Tuesday with three hits and three RBIs after a night off. Derrek Lee also came back from a night of rest with four hits and one RBI and Ryan Theriot with one hit, two walks and two runs scored.
"It shows, it really shows," manager Lou Piniella said of giving players an occasional rest. "If you look at the numbers in the course of a year, they really jump [after a day off]. And we have to continue to do that, especially in this warm weather."
Tuesday's warm weather apparently claimed starter Rich Harden as a victim. Forced to run the bases after beating out what was supposed to be a sacrifice bunt in the second inning, Harden began wilting in the fifth and sixth innings as the Astros whittled the Cubs' lead to 6-5. The key hits were home runs by Ty Wigginton and Geoff Blum, but Harden definitely was tiring.
"It wasn't his shoulder, it was his legs," Piniella said after pulling Harden in the sixth after a walk. "When I went out to talk to him, it was the first time he told me that he had had enough."
"That's something I have to get used to, the heat and humidity and running the bases," Harden said. "I guess I have to learn when to run and when not to. I did lose a little bit [of strength] in my legs, but I have to make pitches no matter what."
Tuesday's game was his first in five starts with the Cubs in which Harden allowed more than one run, the four earned runs (five overall) pushing his ERA to 2.10 from 1.11. His Cubs record remained 1-1 because Carlos Lee's two-run shot off Bob Howry in the seventh inning gave the Astros a 7-6 lead.
It was a very brief lead. DeRosa and Soriano helped the Cubs put five runs on the board moments later—and make Howry (4-4) the winner.
Kerry Wood made his first appearance since July 11 with a scoreless eighth inning and Carlos Marmol pitched a perfect ninth as the Cubs played their 19th straight game without a day off. Wednesday's finale against the Astros will be the 20th, then comes a welcome open date.
Soriano, who missed six weeks with a broken hand, is one of the Cubs who doesn't need a day off right now. The way he is hitting, he shouldn't have one.
"I love what I do," he said. "Every day is a different day and I like to come to the ballpark and play the game."
Cubs 11, Astros 7