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CUBS 9, BRAVES 1

Soriano's 3 homers lift Cubs

Alfonso Soriano's three homers gave him 10 this year. Alfonso Soriano's three homers gave him 10 this year. (GREGORY SMITH/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

ATLANTA -- When Alfonso Soriano had only four homers in 190 at-bats through May, he was starting to hear boos from impatient Chicago Cubs fans.

Soriano proved with three homers in his first three at-bats last night that the early-season power slump is history.

Soriano went 4 for 5, with the three homers in the first four innings, and the Cubs continued their strong road play by beating the Atlanta Braves, 9-1.

The Cubs have won five of their last six games, including two straight over Atlanta. The Braves have lost six of seven, including four straight in which they have scored a combined seven runs.

Soriano is 13 for 23 (.565) with four homers as the Cubs have won four of five games on their road trip. He hit homers in three straight games last week and has six already in June.

"This is what we were looking for," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella. "He's starting to give it to us.

"I tell you, when he's swinging the bat well, he's certainly fun to watch."

Soriano led off the game with a homer off Lance Cormier's first pitch before adding another first-pitch homer in the second inning. Soriano's third homer came in the fourth inning, leaving him in excellent position to become the 16th major league player -- and the first Cub -- to hit four homers in a game.

"I was trying to hit it hard and make a good swing and see what happens," said Soriano, who walked, grounded out, and singled to left in his final three plate appearances.

Soriano called his second career three-homer game "very exciting for me."

"I feel very good, especially after I hit a home run with the first pitch," he said.

Soriano lifted his batting average to .326 with the four hits. The three homers gave Soriano 10 for the season.

The sight of Soriano crunching a fat fastball to lead off the game made Braves manager Bobby Cox cringe.

"No. 1, he's a great hitter," Cox said. "No. 2, you have to make good pitches to a good hitter. We didn't even come close to doing that."

In the fifth inning, Braves reliever Oscar Villarreal threw three balls to Soriano before issuing an intentional walk. The walk drew boos from the fans at Turner Field.

Soriano, facing reliever Blaine Boyer in the seventh, grounded out to shortstop Edgar Renteria. He singled and was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double in the ninth against Chad Paronto.

Sean Marshall (2-2) gave up only four hits and one run in six innings in his second win over the Braves in six days.

Cormier (0-2) gave up five runs in 3 2/3 innings. Cormier, who allowed nine base runners and three runs in the first two innings, gave up five hits and walked six batters. He walked Mark DeRosa with the bases loaded in the first to force in the Cubs' second run.

Michael Barrett hit a homer to left in the fourth to knock Cormier out of the game. Cesar Izturis led off the fifth with a double off Villarreal and scored from third on Felix Pie's fly ball to left.

The Cubs added two runs off Boyer in the seventh.

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