- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Alfonso Soriano made up for another poor performance by the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen, smacking a go-ahead two-run homer in the ninth inning to give the Cubs a 6-5 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.

The Cubs entered the ninth trailing by a run, and Carlos Villanueva (1-1) _ who is serving as the Brewers’ closer while Trevor Hoffman recovers from a strained oblique muscle _ opened the inning by getting Koyie Hill to fly out.

But pinch-hitter Reed Johnson singled to bring up Soriano, who clubbed Villanueva’s next pitch into the second deck in left field.

Carlos Marmol pitched the ninth for Chicago instead of designated closer Kevin Gregg, who blew a save Friday night. Marmol got Rickie Weeks to ground out before giving up a single to Corey Hart, but recovered to strike out Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder to earn his first save.

Aaron Heilman (1-0) struck out three in 1 2-3 scoreless innings to get the win.

Until Soriano’s homer, it appeared as if the Brewers would get the best of the Cubs’ bullpen for the second night in a row.

One day after watching his bullpen walk five in the final three innings of a 4-3 loss, Cubs manager Lou Piniella saw reliever Angel Guzman issue back-to-back walks with one out in the seventh. Piniella brought in Neal Cotts to face Fielder, and Cotts promptly loaded the bases with another walk.

Perhaps sick of making so many trips to the mound in the space of two days, Piniella sent pitching coach Larry Rothschild out to remove Cotts. Heilman then gave up a two-run single to Hardy, giving the Brewers a 5-3 lead.

It was only the second hit of the season for the struggling shortstop, who came into Saturday’s game batting .059.

Aramis Ramirez answered with a solo homer in the eighth for Chicago.

Fielder hit his first homer of the season for Milwaukee. He also had a double and threw out a runner at home plate.

Milwaukee starter Dave Bush was solid through the first six innings, giving up a pair of runs, but ran into trouble in the seventh. With the Brewers leading 3-2, Bush loaded the bases with nobody out on a walk and a pair of singles. Manager Ken Macha left Bush in to face pinch-hitter Micah Hoffpauir, who struck out.

Mark DiFelice took over and induced a potential double-play grounder from Soriano. But Soriano was ruled safe at first and a run scored, tying it at 3. DiFelice struck out Kosuke Fukudome to end the inning.

It was a labor-intensive night for Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano, who returned to the mound at Miller Park for the first time since Sept. 14 _ the day he threw a no-hitter against the Houston Astros, in a series that was relocated to Milwaukee in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

The Brewers made Zambrano throw 118 pitches in six innings, taking a 2-0 lead when Fielder hit a two-out, two-run homer in the third _ more runs than the Brewers scored off Zambrano all last season. In three starts against Milwaukee in 2008, Zambrano gave up only one run in 21 innings.

Bush didn’t give up a hit until the fourth, when Fukudome led off with a home run to right. Milwaukee added another run in the fourth when Bill Hall reached on an infield single, took third on a single by Mike Rivera and scored on Rickie Weeks’ base hit.

The Cubs got a run back but blew a chance to tie the game in the sixth. Soriano led off with a double. Fukudome followed with another double and went to third on a throwing error by Corey Hart. After a flyout by Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley hit a grounder to first and Fielder cut down Fukudome at the plate. Ramirez flew out to end the inning.

Notes:@ Piniella said C Geovany Soto’s sore right shoulder is improving. But with the Cubs carrying only one catcher _ Koyie Hill, who is playing with a sore toe _ Soto could go to the disabled list if he isn’t ready for backup duty by Monday. … Piniella used a late-inning defensive replacement for Fukudome in center field Friday, but doesn’t plan to do so again. “We’ll just let him play,” he said.

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