Instead of railing at his team, Piniella told his struggling hitters to "relax" so that they could regain their confidence.
The Cubs entered the game, a 7-2 loss at San Diego, having scored just three runs on the first five games of this six-game trip. Their hitters were 26-for-157 (.166) with one homer and four doubles. The speech didn't help as the Cubs stretched their current losing streak to seven games.
In addition to pressing, Piniella saw the problem as a simple one of Cubs' hitters taking strikes and swinging at pitches out of the zone.
Piniella lamented the fact that too many players have on-base percentages that should be their batting averages. The biggest culprits on the trip were Milton Bradley, Mike Fontenot, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot. Especially worrisome is Theriot, who had an OBP of .387 last season. That figure had fallen to .335 Sunday, and Theriot last drew a walk on May 14.
Earlier on the road trip, Piniella expressed exasperation and disbelief over his team's lack of hitting. He even went as far as berating the team's traveling secretary for booking too nice of a hotel in St. Louis. He finally decided that a mellow approach was best.
PADRES 7, CUBS 2: Cubs batters scored more than one run in a game for the first time on the six-game road trip. Reed Johnson hit a two-run homer. LHP Ted Lilly worked 6 1/3 innings, giving up five runs and eight hits. RHP Aaron Heilman, who relieved Lilly in the seventh, gave up a three-run homer to Kevin Kouzmanoff. The Cubs have lost seven in a row overall and were 0-6 on the trip.
--1B Derrek Lee was a late lineup scratch because he was feeling ill, according to the Cubs. Lee was one of the few Cubs hitting on the road trip. He's 6-for-19 and on a seven-game hitting streak. Micah Hoffpauir replaced Lee and was 0-for-4.
--RHP David Patton threw a simulated game Saturday in San Diego. Patton has not appeared in a game since May 9. As a Rule 5 pick, the Cubs are trying to "hide" Patton because they risk losing him if they try to put him on waivers and send him to the minor leagues. If Piniella continues to show no confidence in Patton, the Cubs may have to offer him back to the Rockies, his original organization.
BY THE NUMBERS: 18 1/3 -- RHP Randy Wells began his career, last season included, with 18 1/3 scoreless innings with the Cubs. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he became the first pitcher to toss 18 1/3 scoreless innings to start a Cubs career.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "But, still, hard to believe. It really is." -- Piniella on the Cubs' hitting woes after they scored a total of three runs in the first five games of a recent road trip.
--Soriano was 0-for-4 Sunday, and the Cubs' leadoff man has not hit a home run since May 17. In part because he's slumping, Soriano took a seat on the bench for Saturday night's game.
--Johnson replaced Kosuke Fukudome in center field and hit his first homer of the year to bring the Cubs within 4-2 in the seventh. Fukudome was getting a rest after going 2-for-15 on the trip; he was 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter Sunday. It was Johnson's first homer since Aug. 3 of last year. Johnson recorded his 700th career hit and 200th career extra-base hit with the homer.
--Fontenot had the Cubs' first hit of Sunday's loss, a single with two outs in the fifth. Fontenot entered the game 3-for-14 on the trip. He said he was working to stay "on top" of the ball instead of "getting under" it.
ON THE FARM
FRESNO 3, IOWA 2 (CLASS AAA)
At Des Moines, the Cubs (22-20) out-hit the Grizzlies, 8-5, in the loss Sunday. 1B Jake Fox (2-for-4), 2B Nate Spears (2-for-3, double, RBI), and SS Andres Blanco (2-for-4, two runs) carried the offense with two hits apiece. Fox extended his hit streak to 16 consecutive games. LHP J.R. Mathes turned in his fourth quality start in a row, allowing one earned run and three hits in seven innings en route to a no-decision. RHP Jeff Stevens (0-1) suffered his first loss in relief, allowing one unearned run and two hits in two innings.
TENNESSEE 5, BIRMINGHAM 3 (CLASS AA)
At Sevierville, the Smokies (20-21) collected 11 hits in the victory Sunday. C Steve Clevenger (3-for-4, RBI) paced the offense with his third straight multi-hit game. RHP Jay Jackson (3-3) started and turned in his fifth quality start in a row, yielding one run and three hits in six innings. He struck out eight batters and walked three. He is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA and 31 strikeouts to eight walks in four May starts.
PEORIA 4, SOUTH BEND 3 (CLASS A)
At Peoria, C Michael Brenly (2-for-4) hit a walk-off RBI double to give the Chiefs (23-19) the victory Sunday. 3B Josh Vitters (2-for-4, two RBI) hit his 10th home run. It was his seventh home run in his last nine games. RHP Erik Hamren (1-3) got the win in relief after RHP Justin Bristow started and pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowing one run and seven hits to go with five strikeouts.
Class High-A Daytona's scheduled doubleheader versus Lakeland was postponed due to rain. Daytona (19-19) hasn't played since May 19 due to rainouts.
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