HOU@CHC: Sveum talks about good day for Cubs' offense

CHICAGO -- The Cubs are 11-6 in Interleague Play with three games remaining and have secured a winning record (8-4) against the American League for the first time since 2007. What's the key?

"We've pitched really well against the American League lineups," manager Dale Sveum said. "Obviously, we won a big extra-inning game in Anaheim [June 5], but we've actually swung the bats and probably scored more runs against the American League than we have against anybody else. That could be because of the pitching in our division, too."

In 17 games against the AL this year, the Cubs are batting .283, with 98 runs, 23 home runs and a 2.99 ERA. Compare that with 38 games against National League Central teams prior to Sunday's contest against the Pirates, in which the Cubs were batting .212 with 113 runs, 31 home runs and a 3.99 ERA.

The Cubs complete the Interleague schedule this week, facing the White Sox in a makeup game on Monday and then playing host to the Angels on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Hot-hitting Soriano to get one more turn as DH

PIT@CHC: Soriano knocks second two-run homer of game

CHICAGO -- Alfonso Soriano will likely have one more game as the designated hitter on Monday, when the Cubs finish their crosstown Interleague series against the White Sox with a makeup game at U.S. Cellular Field.

Soriano is batting .353 with three doubles, five homers, 13 RBIs and a 1.235 OPS in his last eight games since June 28. On Saturday he picked up his 32nd career multihomer game, which ties him with Manny Ramirez and Andruw Jones for the eighth most in baseball. Jim Thome is seventh, with 33 multihomer efforts.

"The one thing you notice is, he's hitting the fastball," manager Dale Sveum said. "When you have the confidence when you're hitting fastballs and you lay off hitting breaking balls, or whatever it might be, and the bat speed is there and you feel that good, you start doing a lot of good things because you're laying off a lot of bad pitches."

Soriano, 37, is 8-for-17 in four games this year as DH, with two home runs and six RBIs. He has a career .379 average in 26 games as DH.

Extra bases

• Shortstop Starlin Castro has scuffled at the plate, including a .167 June, but manager Dale Sveum and the Cubs are showing their support by letting him play.

"Part of it is putting him in the lineup every day -- that's the confidence you have in guys like that," Sveum said on Sunday. "Just put him in there, and it's up to him to come out of it and start swinging the bat and start playing better."

Castro began this season with a career .297 average in the big leagues. A two-time All-Star, he entered Sunday batting .234.

"I haven't seen him hanging his head or losing his confidence," Sveum said.

• Third baseman Luis Valbuena has played better than his stats.

"On a whole, from last year to this year, he's been so consistent, even though you're not seeing a .300 batting average," Sveum said of Valbuena, who is batting .247 entering Sunday. "The on-base percentage and the walks seem to always be there on a consistent basis, and the defense he's played has been as good as anybody at third base."

• Javier Baez, the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick in 2011, made quite an impression in his Double-A Tennessee debut on Saturday, hitting a home run on the first swing of his first at-bat.

"It's always nice for anybody to go to another league and your first swing is a home run," Sveum said. "This guy still has to develop. It's not just home runs we're talking about, it's getting ready and getting completely developed to play at this level."

Baez led the Florida State League with 17 home runs while at Class A Daytona before he was promoted.

Meanwhile, Albert Almora, the Cubs' 2012 top Draft pick, had to leave Saturday's game with Class A Kane County because of hemorrhoids. He is listed as day to day.