It’s no secret that Alfonso Soriano is streaky.
Heck, even the most camera-hungry fan sitting next to the Cubs television duo of Bob Brenly and Len Kasper in the bleachers could tell you as much.
But rarely is his off-the-charts-good play as close in proximity to his worse-than-you-can-believe play as it was Sunday.
Soriano capped off a day of good, bad and ugly by racing from first to third on a stolen base and wild pitch to score the game-winning run on a pinch-hit single from Xavier Nady in the eighth inning of the Cubs’ sweep-avoiding 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I just looked and I saw the wild pitch and I saw the catcher was a little slow getting the ball,” Soriano said. “I said, ‘I’ve got a chance to make it to third.'”
The heads-up play set up Nady, who may have had the benefit of not having to guard against Pirates reliever D.J. Carrasco’s full pitching arsenal.
“Those guys, they not throw more breaking balls in the dirt because if they throw a breaking ball, maybe they throw a wild pitch and I come in with the run,” said Soriano, whose two-hit day rose his home average to .390 on the year. “We need to make a little play like that to try to win.”
“It goes to show you that if you, hustle you make things happen,” manager Lou Piniella said.
While Piniella was pleased with the play of his left fielder after the game, his feelings during the the second inning probably weren’t all that warm.
In that frame, Soriano booted a Bobby Crosby single, which he was charging hard on to make a potential inning-ending throw home. Later, he muffed a Lastings Milledge single, falling to the seat of his pants and drawing boos from the crowd.
“In this ground, it’s very hard because the grass is so high,” Soriano said of his error. “I’m not making excuses. I was being very aggressive with that ball. I made a little mistake.”
What the fickle crowd failed to remember is that Soriano can look — for lack of a better word, clueless — one minute, and like a world-beater the next. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to deal with, but it’s certainly nothing new.
Luckily, he didn’t have to wait long to atone for his mistake. In the bottom of the inning he drove an RBI-double to the well in left field to get the Cubs on the board. He proceeded to reach on a walk in the fourth inning and his eighth-inning single that set up his pivotal 180-foot dash.
It was a play that Piniella seemed to be begging for. Before the game, he said all that matters is winning.
Soriano’s was, by the very definition, a winning play.
And, as hard it is may have been, worth waiting for.