With Soriano Era over, Cubs trying to create a new identity

With Soriano Era over, Cubs trying to create a new identity
July 28, 2013, 7:45 pm
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Cubs vs. Brewers, 7 p.m.
on Comcast SportsNet

On the hill: Jeff Samardzija (6-9, 3.94 ERA); Kyle Lohse (7-7, 3.37 ERA)

Brewers at at a glance: 43-61 (Last in National League Central, 20 GB Cardinals) ... -66 run differential ... 17-32 on the road.

Brewers pitching leaders: Wins - Yovani Gallardo (8); ERA - Kyle Lohse (3.37); WHIP - Kyle Lohse (1.12) Strikeouts - Gallardo (100); Saves - Jim Henderson (12)

Brewers batting leaders: Average - Jean Segura (.315); Home runs - Carlos Gomez (17); RBIs - Jonathan Lucroy (56); OPS - Gomez (.904); Stolen bases - Segura (31)

Click here for full game preview

SAN FRANCISCO – The visiting clubhouse erupted on a sleepy Sunday morning as the Cubs watched Alfonso Soriano hit his first home run at the new Yankee Stadium. They roared in the lounge and yelled at the TV.

“Do it!”

“Yeah baby!”

“He (bleeping) owns the town!”

“And the hop!”

For all the talk about Soriano’s legacy, his genius became his ability to hit the reset button each morning and prepare for “Another Day in The Show, Babe.”

[RELATED: With Soriano gone, when will the Cubs go all-in with another megadeal?]

It didn’t matter what happened the night before or what was being said on Twitter and talk radio or how his aging body felt. The $136 million man blocked it out, followed his routine and loved being in the spotlight.  

That’s what the Cubs did some 3,000 miles from The Bronx, where Soriano went 4-for-5 with that two-run homer and the walk-off single in a 6-5 win over the Rays, still riding that hot streak.

[MORE -- Samardzija: Soriano lived up to his contract with Cubs]

The Cubs went out in front of the 219th consecutive sellout crowd at AT&T Park and beat the Giants 2-1, sweeping the defending World Series champs and winning six of 10 games on this road trip through Colorado, Arizona and San Francisco.

All-Star pitcher Travis Wood homered off two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and allowed only one unearned run across seven innings. Building-block catcher Welington Castillo drove a Lincecum fastball into the left-field seats for the go-ahead homer in the seventh. Closer-for-the-moment Kevin Gregg notched his 22nd save.

“It’s pretty fresh, but I feel like trades always make teams closer,” Wood said. “Especially (with) a leader like Soriano. Everybody kind of pulls together and (realizes) we got to lead this thing.”  

[RELATED: Cubs see pitching plans coming into focus]

Wood was loosening up before Sunday’s game when he heard all the screaming and had to ask: What’s going on? As Castillo said: “We were so happy. We jumped out of our seats because we saw our boy hit a homer.”

This was a head-spinning trip: Junior Lake debuted (15-for-30 to start; 0-for-13 since). The Matt Garza Show got canceled. The Soriano Era ended. The Cubs (48-55) now have a better record than the Giants (46-58).

“We’ve got a lot of guys in here that don’t give up,” said ex-Giant Nate Schierholtz, who keeps his two World Series rings in a safe deposit box in the Bay Area. “One of the things that was instilled in us in spring training was hard work, running balls out and not ever letting up.

[RELATED: Ignoring the trade deadline chatter, Schierholtz wants to help Cubs get to the next level]

“That’s one of the biggest things a winning team does. You don’t have to have the best players to win a championship. I learned that here. We go out there loose and got nothing to lose.”

It will be weird not seeing Soriano at his locker, walking out to the batting cage and posting up in left in front of the bleacher bums on Monday at Wrigley Field. But team president Theo Epstein is expecting new personalities to take charge.

“We have some guys in our clubhouse now who are already doing those same kind of things in a different way, taking rookies and young players under their wing,” Epstein said. “(They’re) showing them their workout routine and showing them the dos and don’ts off the field, showing them how to get themselves ready to play every day and how to really become professional baseball players and leaders in their own right.

“There’s an opportunity now for players to step up.”  

No one knows what this team will look like after Wednesday’s non-waiver deadline. But the Cubs have gone 7-3-3 in their last 13 series since the middle of June, a time when it was clear the front office would sell and the trade rumors would heat up again.  

“It’s a tough process as a player because you’re as much on the outside as much as everybody else is,” pitcher Jeff Samardzija said. “I’m sure you could get involved if you wanted to, but that’s distracting and that’s taking away from your goal of winning on the field. You’re just kind of along for the ride, to tell you the truth.”

[MORE: Cubs don't believe the Samardzija trade rumors]

Epstein’s front office and manager Dale Sveum have repeatedly said that you either make the playoffs or you don’t. But these final two months will show them something.

“A lot of these young guys got to get a feeling for (winning) in the big leagues,” Sveum said. “It’s the feeling of the last three games here, how every out, every pitch meant everything. That multiplies by 10 when you’re in a pennant race. It’s always a learning process (and you want to) get them out of the way by the time you’re ready to win.”