7/8 Quick hits

Wednesday’s game was No. 82 on the schedule, which marks the start of the second half. Lou Piniella’s goal for the next 81 games is the same as the first.

“The goal is to win the division,” Piniella said. “That’s our goal. There’s no other goal. No other goal whatsoever.”

To do that and three-peat as National League Central champs, the Cubs need to get the offense going more consistently.

“We’ve got to hit,” Piniella said. “Fifteenth in the league in runs scored is not going to get it done, period. We can mask this any way we want to mask it, but we have to start scoring more runs consistently to win baseball games. We hit the ball, we continue to pitch, we’ll be just fine. If we don’t, it’ll be a struggle.”

The Cubs appeared to shake their offensive doldrums in the four-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers, posting a 9-5 win on July 2 and an 8-2 win on Sunday. But games like those have been few and far between. Jake Fox (.310) and Aramis Ramirez (.351) were the only .300 hitters in the Cubs lineup on Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves, and Ramiez was playing his third game since missing two months because of a shoulder injury.

On Tuesday, they couldn’t muster much against Atlanta’s Javier Vazquez and lost, 2-1.

“It’s not the game yesterday, it’s over the course of 81 games, we’re 15th in the league in runs scored,” Piniella said. “It’s very difficult to do unless you’re getting a lot of shutouts from your pitching staff and that’s something very difficult to do, too. You have to score more runs more consistently if you want to win. That’s not only the Chicago Cubs, that’s the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the St. Louis Cardinals or any other team you want to name.

“You’ve got to score runs if you want to win with any consistency,” he said. “We’ve talked many times in the three years I’ve been here about five runs being the benchmark if you want to win with consistency. We’ve played 81 games, you multiply five times 81 and that’s over 400 runs. We’re quite short of it.”

The Cubs have scored 337 runs, an average of 4.2 per game. What’s been tough for Piniella — and Cubs fans, too — to understand is why Milton Bradley is batting .241 after hitting .321 last year, or why Alfonso Soriano has skidded to .230. Geovany Soto, the 2008 National League Rookie of the Year, also was hitting .230.

* Rich Harden will get things started after the All-Star break, starting July 16 at Washington in the first game of a seven-game road trip east. All-Star Ted Lilly would likely start July 18 against the Nationals.

* Congrats to Erin Leyden of Chicago, who will be honored at the All-Star Game Tuesday in St. Louis. She was selected as the Cubs’ everyday All-Star. Major League Baseball and People magazine picked the nominees. Leyden runs a foundation to help families who have children suffering from epilepsy.

* Carlos Zambrano stopped by the press box at Wrigley Field before the game and sang part of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” from the booth. He was just getting his cardio work in.

– Carrie Muskat

2 Comments

Sad to say that as much as I applauded the signing of Piniella, it is now time for him to move on. No doubt that Hendry and others share blame for this untenable under .500 performance with some spectacularly bad signings, but the bottom line is that these guys are playing bad baseball. The Cubs are now playing like Lou’s old Tampa team, very poorly indeed. Ironically both of Lou’s old teams, TB and Seattle are now playing the game right. They have no more talent than Cubs, but they get it and play the game right. The Cubs situational hitting is all but non existent. Their pitchers are bound by some unwritten code to throw “ball one”. The defence is spotty and Lou has this old time idea that you can never NOT play the guys that makes the most money. Couldn’t help but notice that two Cub outfielders managed to play singles into triples today. At the same time, his best outfielder (Johnson) sits on the bench because Lou has decided he cannot hit right handers. Soriano and Bradley should be spot players based on their performance this half. Reed Johnson has a better average than both these guys now and will still have a better average at the end of the season. He is far better defensively and can get down a bunt to move a runner, steal a base, and will always give you a quality AB. This is on Lou. If there is to be any chance that the Cubs play on into the post season, they should look to shore up the starting pitching and the bullpen. Maybe consider offering Soriano, Bradley and Aaron (ball one) Heilman to the Jays for Halladay, or to the Indians for Cliff Lee. Better to try to reduce the likelyhood of being scored on than to keep whipping this offensively challenged dead horse.
These big leaguers playing as poorly and inconsistently as they are is on Lou. He must go

What’s so hard to understand that Soriano would slump?
He’s a free swinging fast ball hitter with little or no plate discipline and all the pitchers know it and won’t throw him a fast ball….Soto is in a sophomore slump (which happens quite often) and he may rebound next season, and it’s not like Bradley was ever in the same league as other “elite” hitters, HENDRY puts these type of players in the same league as the TRULY excellent players…THAT’S THE PROBLEM AND THE FRUSTRATING ISSUE WITH THE CUBS.
Hendry’s moves just bottle-neck the entire development of the organization. DeRosa!

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