The Cubs are 20-18 since the All-Star break heading into Thursday’s game. What’s been the difference from the 37-55 start in the first half?
“A little bit of progress everywhere,” Mike Quade said. “We’ve hit the ball out of the ballpark more than we did. We’ve gotten more quality starts than we were getting. The bullpen has maybe been the one constant but [Carlos Marmol’s] little two-week issue [in mid July] where he needed to get straightened out, he’s recovered from that and gotten very good. I think we’ve played much better defense and cleaner baseball. All of that contributes to it, to my way of thinking as far as why. And we’re healthy, and amazingly, have been for a while.”
* Alfonso Soriano did not start Thursday for the Cubs because of a tender right forearm. He was hit by a pitch there in the eighth inning Wednesday night. Soriano, who hit his 22nd home run in the second on Wednesday, was available to pinch-hit and should be ready for the weekend series against the Brewers.
* Andrew Cashner was expected to make his next outing for Double-A Tennessee on Friday. Cashner threw two-thirds of an inning Tuesday in his first game action since April 5. He went on the disabled list after that start with a strained right rotator cuff. The plan is for Cashner to throw one day, take two days off, then throw the next day. If all goes well, he should be able to rejoin the Cubs in the first week of September.
* Bryan LaHair hit two home runs to raise his season total to 36 in Triple-A Iowa’s 12-7 win over Oklahoma City. LaHair, who also drove in five runs, was batting .336 with 105 RBIs this season. The first baseman was expected to get called up in September when rosters expand.
* Before he grounded out in the seventh Wednesday night, Aramis RAmirez had reached base safely in a career-high nine straight plate appearances. He was the first Cubs player to accomplish the feat since Ryan Theriot did so, Sept. 15-16, 2009.
— Carrie Muskat