Something about September gets Alfonso Soriano going.
Soriano homered three times at the top of Chicago's retooled batting order, and the first-place Cubs emerged from their longest losing streak of the season by keeping their composure and beating the Cincinnati Reds 14-9 on Saturday night to end a six-game slide.
Soriano was the Cubs' Mr. September last season, leading their final surge toward the NL Central title by hitting a club-record 14 homers in the month. He's been in a slump -- along with much of the lineup -- this time around.
He hit two solo homers off rookie Johnny Cueto (8-13), then connected for a three-run shot off Jared Burton, sending a two-strike pitch deep into the seats in left field. Soriano resisted tens of thousands of Cubs fans who wanted him to take a curtain call -- bad form on the road -- but briefly tipped his cap when he went back to left field.
"I remember last September I hit 14 home runs, but that's in the past," said Soriano, who has 27 for the season. "It's a new September."
It's starting to look a lot like the last one.
"It's amazing," manager Lou Piniella said. "When he hits, our team seems to really respond and do well. I hope he gets another big September because we need it."
The third three-homer game of Soriano's career got the Cubs' offense rolling. Mark DeRosa added a three-run drive and Jason Marquis (10-8) had a solo shot as Chicago piled up a season-high five homers. Derrek Lee had four hits on his 33rd birthday.
In one game, the Cubs scored as many runs as they did in the six losses combined.
"It was too much Soriano tonight," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "A couple of [pitches] were down; that's where he likes them. A couple were out over the plate. When he gets hot, he hits everything."
The Cubs pulled ahead 9-1, substituted for many of their starters, then held on. Cincinnati's Jolbert Cabrera hit his first career grand slam in the ninth off Carlos Marmol.
Sensing a need for change, Piniella shook up the lineup, benching slumping All-Star right fielder Kosuke Fukudome and center fielder Jim Edmonds. He made the right choice by leaving Soriano in the No. 1 spot even though he's been struggling as well.
"That's part of the game," Soriano said. "I come to the park every day with the same energy. I don't lose any confidence."
Piniella also provided a calming presence at a potential meltdown moment. Marquis angrily yelled at plate umpire Brian Runge after Chris Dickerson walked with the bases loaded in the fourth inning, cutting the Cubs' lead to 2-1. The right-hander thought Runge had missed the last two pitches.
"I was a little emotional," Marquis said. "That was a big spot in the game. I meant no disrespect to the umpire. I got caught up in the moment."
Out of the dugout came Piniella, who walked very slowly to the mound, giving his pitcher time to regain his composure. After a soothing chat with Marquis, Piniella also had a few even-tempered words for Runge, making sure the situation didn't escalate.
"I told Marquis, 'Look, don't get the umpire upset,'" Piniella said. "That was really the tone of the conversation."
A refocused Marquis escaped further damage and gave up two runs in 7 1/3 innings, a much-needed boost for a rotation left threadbare by injuries to Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden.
The crowd of 41,204 represented the Reds' fifth sellout of the season. Most of the fans were wearing blue and rooting for the Cubs, who got their 86th win on Saturday, one more than last season. The Cubs have been in first place since May 11, and lead Milwaukee by four games.