Soto leads support for Gorzelanny in LA
Catcher homers, drives in three to back sharp Cubs lefty
LOS ANGELES -- How a team looks on paper and how a team plays on the field are often two different things. That's been the case with the Cubs this season, who looked like they were projected in Saturday's 7-3 win over the Dodgers.
That could mean a good second half if it carries over after the All-Star break.
Geovany Soto drove in three runs, including two on his ninth homer, Starlin Castro had two RBIs and Aramis Ramirez hit a solo homer to lead the Cubs.
"Finally," said Ramirez, who connected in the seventh. "It took awhile, but everybody's looking good, everybody's doing their part. We just have to come back after the break and keep doing what we're doing now."
The Cubs entered the game ranked 14th in the National League in runs scored, and had tallied three or fewer runs in 14 of their last 20 games, including one run in seven of those games.
Tom Gorzelanny (4-5) benefited from Saturday's outburst. In his third start since rejoining the rotation and replacing Carlos Zambrano, the lefty gave up one earned run on six hits over six innings. He struck out seven.
"I felt I was able to pitch the way I wanted to and made my pitches work," Gorzelanny said. "I was able to locate a lot better today than the last time out."
Castro hit an RBI single in the second and set up Soto's home run off the first pitch from John Ely (4-7) to go ahead, 3-0. With one out in the third, the Cubs loaded the bases, and Ely walked Alfonso Soriano to force in a run before being lifted.
"I think Soto's home run took a lot of the wind out of his sails, and he just had a hard time rebounding from that," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said of Ely.
Castro greeted Travis Schlichting with an RBI single, and Marlon Byrd tried to score on the hit, but was thrown out at home. Soto followed with another RBI single to make it 6-0. Soto improved to 9-for-17 on the road trip, with three doubles and six RBIs.
"I've been working with Rudy [Jaramillo, hitting coach] in the cage and trying to stay consistent with my swing and have consistent at-bats and trust your mechanics," Soto said.
Manager Lou Piniella didn't stick around much longer. He was ejected after the fifth by first-base umpire Jerry Layne, the 65th time he's been tossed.
Xavier Paul was called safe on an infield single to open the fifth, although replays showed Gorzelanny was a step ahead at first base. Piniella bolted out of the dugout to argue with Layne. One out later, Paul moved up on Rafael Furcal's single and scored on out later on Andre Ethier's hit that dropped between Soriano and Byrd. Byrd threw to third, trying to get Furcal, but no one in a Cubs uniform was covering, and Furcal scored on the error.
"I got up too quickly," Byrd said. "That's my error."
After the inning ended, Piniella went back out to resume his conversation with Layne and was ejected. It's the first time the manager's been tossed this season, first time since Aug. 9, 2009, and sixth with the Cubs.
The players are eager to see how the season ends.
"There's not 10 games left in the season, there's about 70-something," Gorzelanny said. "There's a chance to make it. We all think we can go out there and win some ballgames and win the division and get a run and have a chance at the postseason."
"We've got all the guys, we've got all the ingredients," Soto said. "We have a great lineup, pitching and the bullpen. It's just a matter of putting it together. We've got the whole second half -- let's see what happens."
With the win, the Cubs improved to 11-4 against the National League West and still have 19 games remaining against teams in that division, including Sunday's series finale. But they also have to deal with the Central foes, such as the Cardinals. The Cubs and Cardinals have played three times, and have 12 meetings remaining.
"We have the personnel here -- we have good players," Ramirez said. "[Derrek Lee] is better than that, I'm better than that. [Ted] Lilly's better, Soto's better. We have to come back and put it together."
Lee, for the record, is batting .233, and Ramirez .209. Both are looking forward to the second half. After Sunday, you can forget the first 89 games.
"You have to -- you have no choice," Ramirez said. "You have to come back after the break with a fresh mind. It starts from zero. You can't think about the past -- you can't do anything about it. You have to look forward to the next 70 games."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.