6/29 Cubs 5, Mariners 3 (11 innings)
For the second straight game, the bullpen imploded, but this time the Cubs overcame the breakdown and may have found a new closer candidate. Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer in the 11th inning to beat the pesky Mariners, 5-3, on Saturday night, with Blake Parker picking up his first Major League save.
With the game tied at 3 in the 11th, Nate Schierholtz reached on a bunt single against Oliver Perez, and Soriano followed with his ninth home run. Soriano also hit a RBI single in the sixth, is now batting .386 in 25 career games as the designated hitter with nine home runs and 24 RBIs.
“The DH thing is working,” Dale Sveum said. “A couple days off hopefully helped him get to that form he was doing this time last year when he took off, too.”
Perez struck Soriano out in the ninth inning on Friday in the Mariners’ 5-4, 10-inning victory. Saturday was different. Perez threw two fastballs, then a breaking ball.
“When I saw the breaking ball, it gave me more confidence at home plate,” Soriano said. “I wanted to try to swing at a strike and make good contact, and he threw me a fastball in the middle and I had a good swing.”
At 37, Soriano may be a better suited to be a designated hitter. His name was bantered about last year prior to the Trade Deadline.
“Who knows? I just come to the ballpark every day and just try to do my job,” Soriano said. “I don’t want to put anything in my mind. The last couple years, always trade rumors and nothing happens. I just want to focus day by day and see what happens.”
The Cubs were wearing replica uniforms from the 1909 season, when they won 104 games under manager Frank Chance and finished second in the National League. That year, they were coming off their second straight World Championship, which, at this point, is the last one. They could’ve used Mordecai Brown on Saturday.
Seattle trailed 3-2 in the ninth and rallied with one out against Kevin Gregg as Henry Blanco walked and was lifted for pinch-runner Michael Saunders, who moved up on Nick Franklin’s groundout. Endy Chavez then lined a single to center to tie the game. It was Gregg’s first blown save in 13 opportunities.
“I got the ball up a little bit and he fought it off to get it over second base,” Gregg said of Chavez.
“It wasn’t the greatest pitch selection,” Sveum said.
That left Parker, who totaled seven saves at Triple-A Iowa this year. He had pitched 1 1/3 innings on Friday, but looked fresh and retired the side in order.
“He showed me a lot today,” Sveum said of the right-hander. “That’s a nice asset to know it wasn’t a deer in the headlights in that situation in the big leagues.”
“It’s a position I’m comfortable in for sure,” Parker said. “Going out there in tight situations is where any competitor wants to be. When it’s a close game and for all the marbles and everything’s on the line, usually that’s when most people are at their best. Gregg’s done a great job all year and I’ll go out and compete no matter what role I’m in.”
Before the game, Sveum hinted he may turn to Parker, who admitted he’s still learning how to pitch in the big leagues.
“You’re expected to pitch every day and that’s the approach I took and I got myself ready to pitch and I was ready when my number was called,” Parker said.
— Carrie Muskat