PITTSBURGH — Earth to Alfonso Soriano, come in please. Earth to Soriano … Earth to Soriano … report in, please.
About the only thing that didn't happen to the Cubs over the weekend at PNC Park was an alien abduction, and the persistent misadventures of Soriano left you wondering if the sun was the only thing in his eyes.
Perhaps Soriano was distracted by a beam from a hovering spacecraft, which messed with his internal wiring, at the very least. Maybe he was switched with a clone, although he did look like his old self for one moment in Sunday's 6-5, 11-inning loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Soriano was still holding onto his bat when his two-run homer off Paul Maholm went into the front rows of the left-field bleachers. That was the best moment of a Lost in Space weekend, when the $136 million left fielder contributed to the Cubs losing two of three despite the Pirates being ripe for sweeping.
Soriano cost the Cubs the game Sunday, losing a fly in the sun with two outs in the ninth to allow Pittsburgh to even the score 5-5. He had been picked off second base in the ninth inning Saturday night, setting the stage for Kerry Wood's blown save and a 5-4, 14-inning loss.
Manager Lou Piniella was all but speechless Sunday.
"Tough loss," he said. "Let's just regroup at home, forget about [it] and go about our business. That's all I have to say about the last two days—too many mistakes."
Earlier in the day, Piniella had been critical of Soriano's mistake in the Saturday loss, saying he should have been heading back to second base when Ryan Theriot pulled his bat back rather than try to bunt an up-and-in fastball.
"The ball was way up and in," Piniella said. "You know [the hitter] can't bunt the ball. You should read that as a baserunner. He got a little too far off. As it turned out, an insurance run there would have meant a lot."
Soriano was taken out of Friday night's victory because he was tiptoeing around the field. But Soriano and the training staff convinced Piniella that his problems were a lack of confidence in his health, not a lack of strength in his legs. He continued to hit well (4-for-15, two doubles and one homer in the series) but was a liability in the field and on the bases.
The ball found him at the wrong time—on Nate McLouth's drive to left with pinch-runner Brian Bixler running from first with two outs. Soriano squatted to try to make the catch but the ball glanced off his glove.
"Off the bat, I saw it very clearly," Soriano said. "But then I never saw it. ... I tried to stay as low as I [could]. But it's very hard when you don't see the ball."
After Aramis Ramirez's eighth-inning single put the Cubs ahead, Carlos Marmol was positioned to get his third save. He got the call because Wood had thrown 34 pitches and two innings on Saturday.
"We're not perfect," Marmol said of the Soriano misplay, which was ruled a gift double for McLouth. "You don't see him very often make an error. But that's going to happen one day, and today's the day."
Pittsburgh scored the winning run on Jason Bay's 11th-inning single off Jon Lieber (2-3). Bay also drove in the winning run with a single on Saturday. The Cubs ended the trip 3-4 and dropped to eight games over .500, falling three games under .500 on the road.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times