Rested Alfonso Soriano on a roll

CHICAGO -- If he played in the NBA, Alfonso Soriano would be a jump shooter, capable of getting on a hot streak at a moment’s notice.

And if Sunday’s 1:20 p.m. start against the Pittsburgh Pirates was a basketball game, the rest of Soriano’s team would be setting picks for him immediately after the opening tip.

The Cubs’ veteran middle-of-the order bat will try to stay hot as long as possible after batting .353 with a 1.235 OPS over his last eight games, a run that even includes his 0-for-4 day against the Pirates on Friday when he struck out three times.

“The one thing you notice is he’s hitting the fastball,” manager Dale Sveum said. “I think that's the biggest thing. When you have the confidence hitting fastballs, you're laying off the breaking ball and the strike-to-ball sliders, whatever it might be.”

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Soriano’s hot streak began after he was given two days off in Milwaukee on June 26 and 27. The Cubs then went to Seattle and Oakland and Soriano got a chance to re-energize even further when he was the designated hitter for three of the six games in American League parks.

Since the June 28 contest against the Mariners, Soriano has delivered four multi-hit games, including Saturday’s two-homer performance against the Pirates.

In a nine-day stretch, Soriano has been able to raise his batting average 11 points to .256 and his slugging percentage 54 points to .446. He already has eight RBIs in the Cubs first five games of July, just five short of the 13 RBIs he had in 24 June games.

“With the bat speed and everything, you feel that good, you start doing a lot of good things because you're laying off a lot of bad pitches,” Sveum said.

History has shown that the time is about right for Soriano to start heating up. Next to May, July is Soriano’s second most productive month. He not only has 197 July RBIs in his career (219 in May), he also has an .833 OPS in July (.849 in May).