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posted: 6/17/2012 12:01 AM

Cubs teammates support, defend Soriano

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  • Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija talks with catcher Welington Castillo during the fourth inning Saturday night. Samardzija defended teammate Alfonso Soriano after the outfielder was booed in the sixth inning.

      Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija talks with catcher Welington Castillo during the fourth inning Saturday night. Samardzija defended teammate Alfonso Soriano after the outfielder was booed in the sixth inning.
    Associated Press

 
 

A few jagged bolts of lightning lit up the afternoon sky before the Cubs fell 4-3 to the Boston Red Sox on a muggy Saturday night.

There was no rain, but there was plenty of thunder for one of the Cubs' biggest lightning rods: Alfonso Soriano.

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The game was a highly entertaining one between two struggling teams. Red Sox lefty Jon Lester outdueled the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija.

Boston held a 4-0 lead until the bottom of the seventh, when recently called-up Luis Valbuena crushed a 3-run homer off Lester to make the game close.

But the hot topic after the game was a play in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs and runners on first and second, Soriano lined the ball to third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who appeared to make a catch.

But the ball dropped to the ground, and Middlebrooks easily threw out Soriano, who did not move out of the batter's box.

Fans lustily booed Soriano as he took his position in left field and the next time he came to the plate.

Because of Soriano's hefty contract, he has been a target of Cubs fans over the years, but his manager and teammates vociferously defended him Saturday, noting that the play in question took a split second and that all batters stop when they believe they've lined out to end an inning.

"That's one of those things where 100 percent of every player in the history of baseball would do the same thing," said manager Dale Sveum, who runs a tight ship when it comes to discipline.

"I know I did it a lot of times in my career. When you hit a ball that hard and you hit it at somebody, you think it's in their glove, you put your head down. It gets away from him."

Samardzija (5-5) pitched 5 innings, running his pitch count to 108. He was more than happy to go to bat for Soriano.

"I think anybody that hits that ball does the same thing," Samardzija said. "Alfonso Soriano is one of the best teammates you could ever have. He plays the game the right way. Every day, he prepares.

"Anything Alfonso does when he's playing with me in my lineup, I've got no problems with. I hope he's in there every day when I pitch, and I hope he plays left and I hope he hits third, fourth, fifth or sixth, anywhere."

Samardzija said that feeling about Soriano goes for his teammates, too.

"Sori takes a lot of heat for a lot of things," Samardzija said. "It is what it is. There's not one guy in that locker room that has anything bad to say about Sori."

Soriano, who banters with the left-field bleacher fans every game, termed the booing "unfair."

"It was unfair because it was a hard line drive to the third baseman's glove," he said. "I'm happy that my teammates and manager and coaches support me because they know that I'm working hard to be a better player and be a better teammate. But it's part of the game.

"I think they (the fans) don't understand the game, because it's a line drive. Nothing you can do about it. If it's a groundball and I don't run, then they can boo or do whatever they want.

"But a hard line drive off the glove, so I don't know what they want."

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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