Once upon a time, Alfonso Soriano was part of a "core" of players who were supposed to lead the Cubs to a championship.
That was long ago, starting with the 2007 season. The Cubs made the playoffs a couple of times, but could not get a postseason victory.
Nowadays, "core" means young players, such as Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Travis Wood.
The old and the new combined in a big way Tuesday night in a 7-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels at humid Wrigley Field. Soriano, 37, led a Cubs 5-homer attack with his 14th and 15th.
The kids took it from there. Starting pitcher Travis Wood elevated his name with some pretty good company by turning in his 17th quality start and improving to 6-6 with a 2.69 ERA.
Wood leads the major leagues in quality starts, and he became the first Cubs pitcher with 17 before the all-star break since Greg Maddux in 1988.
Joining in the home run parade were Rizzo, Castro and second baseman Darwin Barney, whose 3-run blast in the sixth inning gave the Cubs a 6-0 lead.
Soriano, who is looking a lot like a kid in recent days, had some elderly wisdom to impart when he said it was fun watching the youngsters.
"It's good because I always say we have too much talent in this clubhouse, and just sometimes those kids put a lot of pressure on themselves," he said. "They have to learn it's one day at a time, and it's a long season, and they have to believe in themselves because they have the talent.
"Just believe in the talent and play one day at a time."
Soriano's recent burst is too little and too late to get him into the All-Star Game, but Wood is going. He stopped to pay respect to Soriano.
"Sori's on fire right now," he said. "It's tough to get that guy out."
Wood lasted 62⁄3 innings and gave up 4 hits and 2 runs, both coming on Albert Pujols's homer in the seventh.
An all-around athlete, Wood singled in the fifth and slid hard into second base trying to break up a double play. He also hustled on a groundout in the sixth.
"I can't help it," he said. "I don't have it in me. You hit it, you run hard. That's how I play the game. Hard. Just playing baseball."
That kind of attitude may make it difficult for the Cubs to keep Wood out of the All-Star Game. Problem is, he is scheduled to start Sunday night against the Cardinals, two days before the Midsummer Classic.
Wood is entitled to play in the game, even though the Cubs may not want him to pitch. However, Tuesday would be his normal "throw" day after a start.
"It's something me and Dale (manager Sveum) are going to have to talk about," he said. "It is a side day, so I would be available. But we'll talk and see what the organization wants me to do. More than likely, we'll see what happens."
If Wood had his druthers?
"I would like to pitch," he said. "The ultimate goal is for the season, for the Cubs. We'll talk about it with them."
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