Soriano Lifts Cubs Over Cards In Opener

Saturday, September 15th 2007, 3:45 pm
By: News On 6

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Alfonso Soriano's two-run homer in the eighth inning drove in the go-ahead run in the Chicago Cubs' 3-2 victory over the sagging St. Louis Cardinals in the first game of a day-night doubleheader on Saturday.

Kerry Wood (1-1) struck out one in a perfect seventh in relief of Ted Lilly, who worked six innings and gave up two runs and four hits. It's Wood's first victory since May 29, 2006.

The third-place Cardinals dropped seven games behind the first-place Cubs in the NL Central, all but eliminating the defending World Series champions from the division race. Before the losing streak began, they were one game out of first place.

The Cubs began the day 1 1/2 games in front of Milwaukee in the division.

Braden Looper threw seven dominant innings and Jim Edmonds hit a two-run double for the Cardinals, who lost their ninth straight game. It's their longest losing streak since a 10-game skid in 1980.

The Cubs are 10-4 against the Cardinals, including 6-1 at Busch Stadium. The game was a makeup of a postponement the day after the death of Cardinals reliever Josh Hancock on April 29, and drew a sellout crowd of 45,918, including a vociferous Cubs contingent.

Pinch-hitter Cliff Floyd drew a leadoff walk and Sam Fuld pinch-ran before Soriano hit his 26th homer into the left-field stands on a 3-2 pitch from Ryan Franklin. Soriano has two homers in the last three games, and eight in the last 18 games since returning from the 15-day disabled list for a strained right quad.

Franklin (4-4) has lost four straight decisions after a 4-0 start, and has given up a two-run homer and taken the loss in two of his last three outings.

Ryan Dempster, who allowed two runs in two-thirds of an inning while pitching with a four-run ninth-inning lead on Friday, pitched a perfect ninth for his 27th save in 30 chances.

Looper, who's a major league-leading 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA in day games, allowed three hits and a run with five strikeouts and two walks. He's 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA against the Cubs, three of four starts against Chicago coming in day games.

Looper retired 18 of his last 19 hitters after Geovany Soto's double in the first, a stretch interrupted only by Soriano's two-out single in the fifth.

Edmonds, who entered the game batting .195 off left-handers, hit a two-run double off the right-field wall in the first to put the Cardinals ahead. Lilly retired the first two batters before Albert Pujols singled and Ryan Ludwick walked ahead of Edmonds.

The Cubs cut the gap to a run in the second when Mark DeRosa drew a leadoff walk, went to third on Soto's double and scored on Mike Fontenot's sacrifice fly.

Soriano dropped a fly ball from Edmonds in the sixth inning for a two-base error, but the Cardinals didn't score.

Notes: Cardinals SS David Eckstein (sore back) missed his second straight start. ... Franklin has four of St. Louis' nine bullpen losses. ... The Cubs are 62-49 against right-handed starter and 15-22 against left-handers.