Despite a bum knee, Alfonso Soriano has played in 72 of the Cubs' 77 games this season. The 36-year-old generally doesn't like to take days off, and with the way he's hit since the start of May -- 15 home runs and a .948 OPS -- he's given Dale Sveum little reason to leave him out of the lineup.
But Sunday, Soriano will get the day off against Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez, and Sveum said his left fielder is fine with the decision.
"This is a little breather, a combination of how hot the weather's been, how hot it's going to be in Atlanta -- and half of it's not liking Wandy too much," Sveum laughed. "He wasn't really fighting me on it either. For whatever reason, some guys have really bad numbers against certain people. I thought after a couple day games, get our other right-handers some extra at-bats is a perfect day getting Soriano a day off going into some more 95, 90-degree weather in Atlanta."
Soriano has faced Rodriguez 41 times and only has four hits with three walks and 12 strikeouts. His OPS against the lone remaining Astro from the 2005 World Series team is .355, the ninth-lowest Soriano has against any pitcher he's faced 20 or more times. The two pitchers he's struggled with the most in his career are a little surprising, though: Miguel Batista (.222 OPS, 27 PA) and Kevin Appier (.281 OPS, 22 PA).
Joe Mather will take Soriano's spot in left field in Sunday's series finale against Houston. The Cubs are seeking a sweep of the Astros, although that's not at the forefront of the team's mind.
"A sweep, it's always nice at the end of the day, you just basically won another ballgame," Sveum said. "Sweeps are nice, winning series are important, but when you step on the field it's just another game that you're trying to win. You're trying to do everything you can win, you really don't know what happened in the past at that time. It gets to the fifth inning, you don't know that you just won the two games prior. We're doing everything we can to win that game at that time right then."
Here's the Cubs' lineup for today's game:
1. Reed Johnson - CF
2. Starlin Castro - SS
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Jeff Baker - RF
5. Geovany Soto - C
6. Joe Mather - LF
7. Darwin Barney - 2B
8. Luis Valbuena - 3B
9. Travis Wood - P