CHICAGO — Jeff Samardzija had plenty of extra motivation on Tuesday. It was his own bobblehead day.
Alfonso Soriano homered, Samardzija struck out eight in seven innings and the Chicago Cubs beat the San Diego Padres 5-3 Tuesday.
The Cubs starter was relieved.
“You don’t want to pitch bad and go outside and see your bobblehead smashed all over the place,” Samardzija said.
Samardzija departed after Will Venable’s RBI triple with no outs in the eighth. Shawn Camp kept the lead intact, getting a comebacker, a lineout and escaping the inning on Carlos Quentin’s fly to left.
“The fact of the matter is Camp’s been probably our MVP up to this point,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
Soriano hit a solo homer to center field in the sixth. After going homerless in his first 30 games this season, Soriano has seven home runs in his last 13 games.
“Right now I feel so good and am happy to help the team win,” Soriano said.
James Russell got the last two outs for his first career save, a nice feat but his father Jeff, a longtime closer in the majors, saved 186 games in his career.
“I’ve only got one,” Russell said. “I still got a little more work to do to get up to his level.”
Russell, who was mostly a starter in the minors, didn’t have a save at any professional level, but talked about the role like a grizzled veteran.
“Once you get two outs, everybody starts getting up and that’s when the juices really start to kick in,” Russell said. “You’ve just got to kind of calm yourself down and not get caught in the moment, remember that you’ve just got to make pitches.”
Quentin homered and had three hits for San Diego. His drive deep into the left-field bleachers on the first pitch of the fifth was his first home run as a Padre.
The Cubs won their second straight win after snapping a 12-game losing streak with an 11-7 win over San Diego on Monday. The Padres have lost five straight and eight of nine. San Diego dropped a game behind Chicago for the worst record in the National League.
Quentin singled and scored on John Baker’s hit in the seventh, but the Padres failed to tie the score when Samardzija struck out pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman with runners on second and third to end the inning.
Eric Stults (1-1) took the loss despite his third straight solid outing. He allowed four runs, including an unearned one, in 6 1-3 innings. Stults has a 2.50 ERA since being claimed off waivers from the White Sox.
“He threw a hell of a game in conditions that were favorable to the offense, but he hung in there, pitched into the seventh inning on a day that it’s a good day to hit with the wind blowing out,” Padres manager Bud Black said.
Samardzija improved to 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA in five starts at Wrigley, and looped a 3-2 pitch from Stults over a drawn-in infield to score Darwin Barney with the go-ahead run in the fifth.
Samardzija worked around Stults’ leadoff double in the sixth, escaping when Soriano made a sliding grab in left to rob Chris Denorfia, then easily doubled Stults off second as he was already halfway between third base and home plate.
“I was a little surprised but he’s a pitcher,” Soriano said. “It’s not like he’s a position player. I’m happy we were able to make that play. That was a huge play in the game.”
Barney doubled into the left-field corner in fifth to score Reed Johnson, tying the game 1-all. Barney also doubled in the seventh. After being balked to third by Stults, he scored on John Baker’s passed ball.
NOTES: The Cubs activated C Steve Clevenger from the 15-day disabled list before the game, optioning C Blake Lalli to Triple-A Iowa to make room on the roster. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said that Clevenger, who has been out since April 28 with a right oblique strain, will see the majority of action behind the plate. Regular backstop Geovany Soto is on the DL with a torn meniscus in his left knee. . Tuesday marked the 50th anniversary of the day the Cubs made scout Buck O’Neil the first black coach in big-league history.