Running On Empty

The familiar seventh inning stretch pronouncement "Let's Get Some Runs!" used to be symbolic, but these days it is an urgent plea from fans wondering who let the air out of the Cubs' once high-flying offense.

"Just wait." That is all I hear.

"Just wait until Mark Prior comes back to solidify the rotation. Just wait until Mike Remlinger returns to shore up the bullpen. Wait until Ryan Dempster is healthy."

Last time I checked, these three aren't going to be inserted into the starting lineup everyday with life rafts to rescue a slowly sinking offense.

This has been a feast or famine offense to say the least.

On good days, the lineup is patient and everyone is whacking the ball. On bad days, everyone is offering at the first pitch and swinging for the fences. More troublesome is that the Cubs' offense has not proven (with the exception of solving Al Leiter) that it can consistently defeat strong starting pitching.

Beating up on the Pirates, Mets and Reds was fun to watch, but those decks of playing cards are filled with AAA jokers rather than proven aces.

Much like the spoiled Cubs bullpen, which usually doesn't have to contribute more than two innings a game, this offense should not feel pressure to ‘out-slug' its opponent.

Yet, both the bullpen and offense continue to put tremendous pressure on the starting staff to pitch near-perfect games every time out.

The offense has produced more than four runs only once in the last 11 games. The Cubs have the rest of May to get the offensive kinks sorted out, because June will show no mercy.

From June 7 through July 4, the Cubs do not face a team with a losing record at this point. Every contending team has a month of reckoning, and for the Cubs, June will keep their fans edgier than a movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

Seven games against the Cardinals, seven against the Astros, six against the White Sox and three versus both the Angels and A's. 26 games. No easy victories.

The brutal June stretch makes the return date of Mark Prior even more critical. The entire season might come down to these 26 games, and throwing Prior out to the mound five times during this stretch instead of Sergio Mitre is a difference that cannot be underestimated.

However, there is really only one way to ensure the team is still standing tall when the calendar turns to July.

Let's get some runs (literally)!

Brian Lustig is our senior editorialist at Agree or disagree with Brian? E-mail him at

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