The Chicago Cubs right fielder homered on consecutive pitches,
sparking a late comeback that gave Chicago a 7-2 win Friday night
over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
After tying the score in the top of the seventh inning with a
towering 409-foot blast to center field, Soler capped a four-run
eighth with a two-run shot, a 442-foot bolt that landed in the
concourse just behind the left field bleachers.
In his first three games, Soler is 7-for-11 with three homers,
becoming the second Cub to do it this month. Second baseman Javier
Baez, whose two-run double in the eighth unknotted a 2-2 game, was
"I don't know how to explain it," a smiling Soler said through an
interpreter. "Everything is going so well."
The 22-year old Soler, who was born in Cuba and defected in 2011, is
one of a wave of power-hitting prospects that has win-starved North
Side fans salivating. Baez has seven homers in his first 24 MLB
games and minor league third baseman Kris Bryant has 43 between
Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee.
In fact, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer shot down a rumor before the
series opener that Bryant would receive a promotion to Chicago.
"We're just waiting for Bryant now," Baez laughed.
The Cubs (60-74) are certainly a different team from the one that
quickly fell into the National League Central cellar early this
season. While they'll probably finish there for a second straight
year, their lineup, which has more homers than any NL team except
Colorado, commands respect.
"They've got some studs and a lot of power," St. Louis starter
Shelby Miller said. "We've all realized it. They are tough, man.
That's a good team."
Miller pitched a solid game against Chicago, with the exception of
two mistakes. Third baseman Luis Valbuena drilled a leadoff homer in
the second inning and Soler ambushed a first-pitch fastball to wipe
out a one-run lead that Miller nursed through the middle innings.
In seven innings, Miller gave up only four hits and two runs,
walking two and fanning three.
"I threw that right in his swing path," he said of Soler's first
homer. "I couldn't have given him a better pitch to hit."
Reliever Pat Neshek (6-1) entered the eighth inning having allowed
only five runs in 55 1/3 innings but fell victim to the Cubs' youth
brigade. After pinch-hitter Logan Watkins stroked a leadoff single
and left fielder Chris Coghlan lofted a ground-rule double down the
right field line, Baez mashed a 2-2 fastball to the wall in
Two outs later, Soler capped Neshek's worst performance since Aug.
11, 2007, when he gave up four runs to the Los Angeles Angels of
Anaheim while pitching for Minnesota.
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"I hate giving it up," Neshek said. "It's never fun, but I'll finish
The Cardinals (71-62), which lost their third straight game and have
scored just nine runs in their last five contests, jumped out to a 2-0
lead against Kyle Hendricks in the first. Left fielder Matt Holliday and
shortstop Jhonny Peralta collected RBI singles.
But Hendricks allowed just two more singles after that, leaving after
six innings with his seventh quality start in nine starts. He yielded
five hits and two runs with a walk and three whiffs.
Neil Ramirez (2-1) worked around two singles in the seventh inning for
the win. Reliever Justin Grimm closed it out with four strikeouts in the
ninth, the 72nd time that has happened in MLB history.
That was preceded by Chicago's fourth homer, a leadoff jack by center
fielder Arismendy Alcantara in the top of the ninth inning. All four
traveled at least 409 feet.
"I feel we have a good team," Soler said.
Perennial All-Star catcher Yadier Molina returned to the St. Louis
lineup after a 40-game absence with torn right thumb ligaments suffered
July 9. He went 0-for-3, reaching in the sixth inning when he was hit by
NOTES: To make room for C Yadier Molina, St. Louis optioned C Tony Cruz
to Double-A Springfield. Cruz, who is hitting .195 with 12 RBIs, will
likely be back next week when the rosters can expand to 40 players. ...
Chicago 1B Anthony Rizzo (lower back tightness) didn't start for the
third straight game. He suffered the injury Tuesday night at Cincinnati,
leaving a rain-delayed game in what was described as a precautionary
move. ... The Cardinals will bring up LHP Marco Gonzalez from Triple-A
Memphis to start the night portion of Saturday's day-night doubleheader.
They also announced that OF Shane Robinson (shoulder) underwent
season-ending surgery Thursday.
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