7/23 Extra bases

Alfonso Soriano just needed a day to clear his head. He hit his first home run since June 19 on Friday, and said part of the problem was that he was thinking too much about the team’s struggles.

“The way we lose, the way we play, sometimes I think about the team instead of thinking about me first,” Soriano said. “Sometimes those things affect me mentally. The day off [Thursday], I said, ‘I have to control my situation. I cannot control the whole situation.’

“Sometimes you try to control the whole situation and mentally I get tired,” he said. “Now, I just think about me and see the team and how it plays but I have to think about what I can do to help the team win.”

His homer snapped an 0-for-18 skid. Soriano hit .265 in June but was batting .186 (11-for-59) so far in July.

“Sometimes it’s very hard, the way we play, to keep your mind strong,” he said. “That’s the difficult part of this game, the mental part.”

* Aramis Ramirez has held the cleanup spot in the Cubs’ lineup most of his career but was bumped up to the No. 3 spot and is producing. In 19 games batting third, he was hitting .324 with eight homers and 19 RBIs. In 65 games batting fourth, he hit .291 with eight homers and 32 RBIs.

“Knock on wood, day in, day out, it’s not like he takes three games off,” Mike Quade said of his third baseman. “He’s been not just good but consistently good and hitting in big situations. He’s what you need in the three-, four-hole and especially if you’re not producing a lot of runs, whatever he can give you is good.”

Ramirez has been hot, batting .358 this month with eight homers and 20 RBIs. The Cubs have been a litte sluggish in eight games since the All-Star break, batting .242 with seven homers and 23 RBIs.

* Carlos Marmol struck out two batters in the eighth inning, which was a good sign.

“That was the guy I know,” Quade said Saturday.

Expect Marmol to be used in a save situation next time.

* The Cubs want to see if they need Rodrigo Lopez this weekend before announcing the starting rotation for the upcoming series against the Brewers, which starts Tuesday. Because of off days on Thursday and Monday, the Cubs didn’t need a fifth starter and Lopez was assigned to the bullpen. One pitcher who will face the Brewers will be Ryan Dempster, who has a 15-3 career record against them.

– Carrie Muskat

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