Soriano's numbers up in Cubs' down year

The difference between 99 and 100 may not seem like much to most, but to the Chicago Cubs, avoiding the 100 loss mark is essential. After their 6-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, the Cubs fell to 59-94 and are back on pace to lose 100 games for the first time since 1966.

“With nine games left we’ve got our work cut out for us,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Six are on the road and only three at home. We gotta find some way to come up with four wins. Hopefully these guys come out and understand you don’t want to be a part of that.”

Alfonso Soriano agreed that at the very least, avoiding 100 losses would be a minor mental victory.

“We gotta get it going, at least play .500 on the road or more. We’ve had a (losing) season, but it can be worse if we get over 100 losses. We just want to keep fighting and not get to 100 losses because three-digit losses is too much. So far (this season has been) frustrating, but I think for the organization it can be good (to avoid 100 losses).”

While the Cubs are having one of their worst seasons, Soriano is wrapping up one of his most impressive in a Cubs uniform. With his solo home run in the sixth -- his 31st of the year -- Soriano set a career-high with 105 RBIs on the season.

Soriano was pleased that he could do his part to contribute, but pointed out that he had a little help as he racked up his big RBIs total.

“I think that’s the first year that I had opportunity to have a lot of RBI, because most years I batted leadoff,” Soriano said. “Now my game has changed, I don’t have speed but now I’m just kind of a power hitter. I think I have 105 RBI because I’m batting cleanup.”

His improvements defensively have also contributed in making this one of Soriano’s better all-around seasons with the Cubs. Soriano admitted that this year was the first time he’s ever gotten instruction on how to play the outfield. First base coach Dave McKay routinely coaches all the outfielders on how to play defense.

That revelation is all the more surprising considering that Soriano moved from second base to left field in spring training of 2006, his only season with the Washington Nationals. Soriano said that the only ‘coaching’ he got at that time and prior to this season was shagging fly balls during batting practice.

Though some may argue that 2012 is Soriano’s best with the Cubs, they’d be conveniently forgetting his 2007 and 2008 campaigns with the club. Soriano posted an OPS of .897 and .876, respectively, in those seasons, while making the All-Star team and being a vital part of a playoff team in both those years.

However, it’s likely that this season is the most surprising of Soriano’s career. Not only does he have a career-high in RBI, but at 31 home runs and 143 games played, he needs three more homers and five more games to pass his Cubs-career highs in both categories. Watching Soriano struggle with knee problems over the first three months of the season makes the fact that he may reach 150 games played all the more remarkable.

“He just keeps going,” Sveum said. “He’s had to play a lot of games this year with very few days off. We just don’t score many runs, it’s difficult to give him many days off. He’s done one heck of a job, left field, at the plate, everything about this season has been one of his best seasons.”