Lucky No. 13 for Soriano


Lucky No. 13 for Soriano

Apparently, 13 is Alfonso Soriano's new lucky number.

On Friday the 13th, Soriano moved into 13th place on the Cubs' all-time leaderboard for home runs.

The 36-year-old outfielder has been battling a creaky knee for the entire season and with a rain delay that lasted just shy of four hours, it would not have been crazy to see him scratched from the lineup on a slippery playing surface.

But Soriano played on and powered the Cubs to a 8-1 victory over visiting Arizona in the first game of the second half. Soriano swung early and often -- he only saw eight pitches in four at-bats -- but had two doubles, two homers, three runs and five RBI to show for it.

The five RBI tied his career high, which he has reached seven times, the last of which came Sept. 6, 2008 in Cincinnati.

The four days off during the All-Star break appears to have done wonders for Soriano.

"I told him he's getting four more days off," manager Dale Sveum said with a laugh. "That was impressive...That was huge. Coming out of the break for him to get hot, that would be huge. We could keep this thing rolling with him going."

Soriano said he cleared his mind and his body during the four-day layoff and that his leg has been feeling good the last month or two.

It showed on his first first double in the second inning, in which he hustled into second, advanced to third on Geovany Soto's fly out to center, and then scored on a wild pitch.

The first homer -- in the fourth inning -- left the ballpark, landing on Waveland Ave. for some lucky fan.

The second bomb was a dagger for the Diamondbacks, a three-run shot that just barely snuck into the center-field seats. It was Soriano's 149th in a Cubs uniform, which moved him into 13th place all-time in franchise history. He passed Mark Grace in the process, who ironically was in the house, working as a TV broadcaster for the Diamondbacks and singing the Seventh Inning Stretch.

Soriano added another RBI double in the seventh and coasted to one of his best games in a Cubs uniform.

Just under a month ago, Soriano was booed mercilessly by fans at Wrigley after failing to run out a line drive against the Red Sox. Friday, he was cheered and revered among the Wrigley faithful.

For all the criticism he's taken, the veteran outfielder is on pace for 32 home runs and 100 RBI this season. He raised his batting average 10 points and his OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) 43 points in Friday's game alone.

"It's nice that he's doing it for us," Sveum said. "We've played almost 90 games now. Seventeen homers and 53 RBI is pretty good for a guy that wasn't expected to do a whole lot this year. He's done one heck of a job for us."

Soriano attributes the new front office regime for sticking with him after a couple rough years.

"I'm very happy with the coaches and GM and president, because they show me respect and confidence in myself," he said. "I haven't had that in three or four years."

Soriano admitted it was great to have such a successful game at the plate, but at the end of the day, he was more worried about the victory.

"There was a lot of rain, but more importantly, we got the win," he said, flashing his trademark smile. "It's a long day, but you know, when you get the win, it doesn't matter how long you stay here."

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

The Bulls square off against the Sixers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, with coverage beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live. Here are three things to watch as the Bulls begin the stretch run of their regular season.

1. The new rotation: Most of the Bulls’ rotation looks the same, but the addition of David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne will have a different feel. The Bulls clearly want to get a look at these guys before the end of the regular season, meaning they’re not just going to get sporadic minutes. They’ll have to play through their mistakes, play out-matched at times and be put in uncomfortable situations. But the Bulls need to see what they have, especially in Payne, who has missed the entire season to this point with a broken foot.

2. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: They’re quite the 1-2 punch and have the Sixers looking at their first playoff appearance since Derrick Rose hadn’t yet torn an ACL. Yeah, that’s a long time. Embiid just finished his first All-Star appearance (starting in his second year) and Simmons is the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will have their hands full with these two. Luckily…

3. Kris Dunn is back: The Bulls wanted to get Dunn some run before heading to All-Star Weekend to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, and he looked healthy in that thumping against the Raptors last week. The good news is John Paxson says Dunn won’t be on a minutes limit, which means he’s healthy. That, of course, is more important than how he’s playing. It’ll be fun to see him, LaVine and Markkanen play together down the stretch. Their numbers together aren’t great, but the Bulls are 2-2 with all three in the lineup, and tanking or not…it’s more fun to watch when those three are rolling. 

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'


Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."