The sample size is big enough that it's OK to say it: Alfonso Soriano is hot.
Soriano belted 2 home runs Saturday in the Cubs' 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. The homers were Soriano's 11th and 12th of the season, and he moved into 59th place all time along with White Sox favorite Harold Baines with 384 career homers.
Soriano had a six-game hitting streak snapped Friday, but he had 3 homers, 3 doubles and 9 RBI during the recent nine-game road trip.
"Obviously, it was the Sori show today," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum, whose team improved to 37-48. "It has been kind of the last 10 or so days."
No conversation about Soriano heating up is complete without acknowledging that the Cubs would love to trade him before the July 31 nonwaiver deadline. Soriano's eight-year, $136 million contract runs through next season, but the Cubs' hope is that a contender needing a bat might want Soriano, perhaps as a DH.
Any trade is up to Soriano, who can veto any deal involving him because he has 10-and-5 rights, with at least 10 years of major-league service and five with one team.
"It's very hard for me to think about playing DH because all my career I've played in the field," he said. "I'm 37, but I feel young. My legs are good, and I like how I'm feeling in the field. I've proved to myself and everybody that my defense got better.
"I don't want to think about a trade. I'm happy all the time. Last year they were talking about a trade, and nothing happened. So I just want to come back to the ballpark every day. If there's something at the table and they want to let me know … but right now, I just want to focus and play my game."
Each of Soriano's homers was a 2-run shot, and both came off Pirates starter Charlie Morton. One came in the fourth inning and the other in the fifth.
The blasts made a winner of Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson, who worked 52⁄3 innings and improved to 5-10 with a 5.50 ERA. He is hoping the large sample size of the full season will have his numbers looking good at the end.
"We've been stressing that all year," he said. "There's a lot of baseball left to play still. Sometimes people get off to slow starts. Sometimes people get off to fast starts.
"Sometimes the ones who get off to fast starts wither away. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes the ones that get off to a slow start, they pick it up.
"It's just a game that you have to continue to grind. You have to continue to have confidence in yourself and believe you can do it. Just go out and have fun."