Jeff Samardzija and Alfonso Soriano have been two of the more maligned Cubs since they came to Chicago a few years back.
So it was interesting -- and fun -- to see both get big ovations from the Wrigley Field crowd during Tuesday's 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres.
The win was the Cubs' second in a row after a 12-game losing streak and improved their record to 17-32.
Samardzija pitched well again, this time for 7 innings, as he improved to 5-3 with a 3.09 ERA. He got some huge help from relievers Shawn Camp and James Russell.
Camp bailed Samardzija out in the eighth after the Padres had the tying run on third with nobody out, and Russell earned his first career save by getting the final two outs of the ninth.
Soriano also helped, with a home run to center field in the sixth to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead. It was Soriano's seventh of the year, all in May.
He also came through again on defense right before the home run, making a diving catch in left field on a ball off the bat of Chris Denorfia and then doubling Padres pitcher Eric Stults off second base.
Those two plays had the bleacher crowd in a frenzy, and the fans saluted Soriano when he trotted out to his position for the seventh. Soriano has been booed often by the fans in left.
"They know that I'm working hard, trying to do the best for the team," he said. "I appreciate that because they know that I try to do the best I can to make this team better and try to win. I hope they understand that."
One thing difficult to understand is why Soriano seems to hit his home runs in bunches. Manager Dale Sveum talked of the media guide "not lying" at the end of the year, meaning that most players' stats come close to their career numbers despite the cold streaks.
"I don't know," Soriano said with a chuckle. "I think when I get my swing back, it's hard to stop. Sometimes it takes me long to find my swing. When I find it, I hit a lot of homers and hit the ball good."
As far as Samardzija goes, he has been a revelation since spring training, when he willed himself into the starting rotation after working mostly as a reliever in his still-young career.
A lot of fans were ready to write him off as a whimsical draft pick of the former regime. But the former football star at Notre Dame has added a lot of baseball finesse to his game.
He said he learned from a poor outing against the Rockies in the spring, when he fell back into his old habit of trying to overthrow everything.
During the season, though, Samardzija has been pitching and not throwing. His fastball still clocks in the mid- to upper-90s (mph), but against pinch hitter Jesus Guzman in the seventh, he went to the slider to strike Guzman out.
"The Colorado start in spring training was what I used to do: go out and try to throw hard the whole time, try to go in all the time," Samardzija said. "When you get a free-swinging team that can put the bat on the ball, a lot of times you've got to change it up.
"I just kind of put that in the back of my mind, and I've caught myself a few times this year, realizing I need to slow it up a little bit."
Equally important was that Samardzija won and snapped a personal two-game losing streak on Jeff Samardzija bobblehead day at Wrigley.
"You don't want to pitch bad and go outside and see your bobblehead smashed all over the place," he said.
Got a feeling those bobbleheads went on display proudly in a lot of fans' homes Tuesday night.