Soriano Out

It's never easy for the Chicago Cubs. Just as the team was closing in on the top spot in the NL Central, the Cubs now have more to worry about than just the first-place Brewers.

In the third inning of Sunday's game, left fielder Alfonso Soriano singled, then tried to advance to third following a single by the next batter, Ryan Theriot. In between second and third, however, Soriano pulled up in obvious pain. He hopped toward third base on his left leg, where he was tagged out to end the inning. Soriano left the game, an 8-3 Mets victory that gave starter Tom Glavine 300 career wins.

Now the Cubs are left to wonder how they will keep winning without Soriano, the team's most dynamic player.

An MRI was scheduled to determine the exact nature of Soriano's injury, but it's bad enough that the Cubs are anticipating having to make do without him for two to four weeks.

"How devastating. I mean, leadoff hitter, valuable guy, leads my team in home runs, he's got a lot of energy," manager Lou Piniella said. "It's going to be a tough loss."

Soriano was replaced in left field by Cliff Floyd for the remainder of the game Sunday, as Floyd moved from right field. Second baseman Mark DeRosa moved to right to take Floyd's place, and Mike Fontenot took DeRosa's spot in the infield, but that's not likely to be the norm in Soriano's absence.

General manager Jim Hendry and Piniella will meet soon to discuss the team's options, but none of them is likely to ease the pain of Soriano's loss -- only time can do that.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Ryan Dempster was booed heavily by the Wrigley Field crowd Friday when he gave up four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-2 loss to the Mets.

The previous time he faced the Mets, the Cubs closer came into a May 17 game at Shea Stadium with a 5-1 lead and gave up five runs.

He obviously has had his trouble with the Mets, but manager Lou Piniella is not ready to pull the plug on Dempster and insert Bob Howry or young Carlos Marmol as the main closer.

"Ryan's our closer," Piniella said. "I've got confidence in him. I don't have an explanation as to why (New York) hits him. I don't know if it's a fluke, or they have his pitches, or they feel good against him -- I don't know. I've got confidence he can get the job done, and we'll go from there."

Dempster gave up a run against the Mets in mop-up duty in the ninth inning Sunday night.

--RHP Kerry Wood, who has been on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis all season, made his debut Sunday at Wrigley Field and threw a scoreless inning against the Mets. Wood gave up a hit and struck out one. He hit 93-94 mph consistently with his fastball.

--RHP Carlos Marmol was supposed to be given the day off Saturday but came into the game against the New York Mets in the eighth inning. Manager Lou Piniella said Marmol wouldn't even be in the bullpen Sunday night and would stay in the dugout. Piniella used five relievers Sunday, but Marmol sat.

--LHP Rich Hill, who starts Monday night against Houston, has logged just 9 2/3 innings total in his last two starts. Cubs manager Lou Piniella said he wants Hill to step up and give the club more innings to give the bullpen a break during the team's 20-game stretch without a day off.

--RHP Sean Gallagher, a Class AAA Iowa pitcher who is next in line for the Cubs rotation if there is an injury, gave up one run on five hits over seven innings in a 3-1 win over Tucson on Friday.

BY THE NUMBERS: 17 -- Wins the Cubs had in July, their best July since winning 17 in 2000.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "A guy in Peoria told me he watched me when he was 11. That's the first time I heard that. I told him to 'beat it.'" -- Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood, on turning 30 years old.


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