CINCINNATI -- It's easy to take the field each day with a positive attitude and max effort when the playoffs are just around the corner and a division crown is within reach.

But it's a different story for a club sitting 20-plus games below .500 during a rebuilding year.

So what do the Cubs use as their motivation each day?

"This is my job," said Alfonso Soriano. "I have to keep playing hard every day. I think of it as the first game of the season, not think about it like we're out or we have a bad record. I think about it as one game at a time and this is the first game of the season."

It's this type of mentality that has kept the Cubs going lately, in addition, of course, to the fact that a bright future may be in store for the organization, with the possible contract extensions of younger talents who are beginning to make names for themselves.

"I think it can be a big relief to players to just go out and play and not have to worry about an arbitration year, a platform year," said Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. "Knowing they're going to be part of the leadership of the club for a long time, it can relax them and reinforce the leadership qualities and being the type of players you want others to look up to as a role model."

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said the rough patches of the season bring out the true character of the players. He added that the club assesses the intangibles of the team just as much as the numbers the players put up on the diamond.

"This time of year, you're not only evaluating their talent and ability to play in the big leagues, but you're evaluating their character and what they're bringing to the table every day when things aren't going well, and the adversities of the Major League game itself," Sveum said. "You're definitely evaluating the character of people as much as their play."

Mr. 1,000: Soriano reaches RBIs milestone with homer

CINCINNATI -- With one swing of the bat, Alfonso Soriano made his way into the record books.

The 14-year veteran was just two RBIs away from the 1,000 mark entering Saturday's doubleheader, and he reached the plateau in his first at-bat off Reds starter Johnny Cueto in Game 1.

With David DeJesus on first after being hit by a pitch, Soriano sent a 3-2 fastball into the stands in left field, becoming just the sixth player in MLB history to chalk up at least 1,000 RBIs, 400 doubles, 350 home runs and 250 stolen bases.

"I'm very proud, because not too many people can get 1,000 RBIs. It feels great," Soriano said. "I'm so proud to get 1,000 RBIs because most of my career I batted leadoff. So to have 1,000 RBIs, that's a lot for me. I'm very proud of myself."

The seven-time All-Star joins a class with Barry Bonds, Andre Dawson, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield as the only players to accomplish the feat, two of whom are in the Hall of Fame.

"I'm more than happy to be in that kind of group because those guys are Hall of Fame and they played this game for many, many years," Soriano said. "I'm very happy to be in that kind of group."

Soriano entered the game hitting .270 with three home runs and four RBIs in 40 plate appearances against Cueto, and the home run put Chicago ahead, 2-0, in the first inning.

The Cubs ended up falling to the Reds, 5-3, despite Soriano's 2-for-4 outing, but no loss on the schedule can diminish the accomplishments of Soriano's lofty career, one that includes seven All-Star selections, four Silver Slugger Awards and two World Series titles (1999 and 2000 with the Yankees).

"He's the whole package," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum. "He's one of six guys to do what he's done. When you can say only six people in the history of baseball have ever done it, you're in a select group. It's an incredible milestone to be one of those guys, let alone to get 1,000 RBIs. I was happy for him."