MILWAUKEE—With Alan Trammell in the managerial seat again as Lou Piniella served the second game of his four-game suspension, the Cubs came to Milwaukee needing to win at least two of three to re-establish themselves in the Central Division race, where any team with a pulse can contend.
They got off on the right foot Monday night. Alfonso Soriano homered for the third straight game and went 5-for-5 to lead the Cubs to a 7-2 victory over the Brewers before a road-tripping crowd of 35,760 at Miller Park.
Cesar Izturis and Cliff Floyd after Michael Barrett had walked and stolen his first base in more than three years.
Soriano then cranked a towering three-run shot off Matt Wise, his seventh of the year, to break the game open.
Carlos Marmol notched the win in relief, and the Cubs won back-to-back games for the first time since May 19 against the White Sox. They moved within 6 ½ games of the Brewers.
Jason Marquis lasted only 5 1/3 innings, throwing 112 pitches and escaping bases-loaded jams in the first and second innings.
When Mark DeRosa dropped the relay of a potential double-play grounder in the fourth, it led to an unearned run that put the Cubs behind 2-1.
At that point, Monday's game looked like another edition of the Cubs follies. In the third inning, the Cubs held a players-only meeting near the mound with Johnny Estrada's pop-up in the air. Marquis was on the mound calling for it. Barrett was on the mound searching for it. And infielders Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and DeRosa were standing by in case of an emergency.
After the ball dropped among the five players, the Brewers' local TV affiliate showed Piniella sitting in a luxury suite wearing a pained expression. Norman Rockwell could not have painted a more perfect picture of the Cubs' season.
The cameras panned back to Piniella after every Cubs gaffe, and, truth be told, "Lou Tube" was as interesting as the game itself.
Milwaukee stranded more men than Elizabeth Taylor, looking like anything but a first-place team. Estrada grounded into an inning-ending double play in the first, and the Brewers wasted a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the second when Marquis induced a double-play grounder and Ramirez made a great play to rob Corey Hart of a two-run single.