Several Key Hitters Slumping

When Derrek Lee hit a two-run single Sunday against the Reds, it broke an 0-for-21 skid for the Cubs with runners in scoring position.

It wasn't exactly like the dam broke with that hit, though. The Cubs were 4-for-21 with men in scoring position in the 6-3, 14-inning victory over the Reds.

The Cubs are missing the big bats of third baseman Aramis Ramirez and right fielder Milton Bradley. Ramirez is out at least another month with a dislocated left shoulder, and Bradley is day-to-day with a strained right calf. He walked Sunday as a pinch hitter.

The bigger problem is that several key hitters are in huge slumps. Left fielder Alfonso Soriano saw his on-base percentage dip below .300 at one point during Sunday's game, during which he went 1-for-6 with the go-ahead homer in the 14th. Third baseman Mike Fontenot, Ramirez's replacement at third, hasn't homered since May 3.

Manager Lou Piniella has sounded tired of the whole "RISP" conversation.

"Do I need to keep rehashing this every night?" Piniella said after Saturday's 4-3 loss. "I don't really need to. You all see it."

The problem has become acute of late because the Cubs were involved in four extra-inning games in five games so far on the road trip.

CUBS 6, REDS 3 (14 innings): Soriano led off a three-run 14th inning with his 14th homer of the season. RHP David Patton earned his second big league win in relief, and RHP Angel Guzman picked up his first major league save. Ryan Theriot homered in the first inning. RHP Randy Wells worked 6 2/3 innings, giving up two runs.


--SS Ryan Theriot homered in the first inning. It was his sixth homer of the year and the 13th of his career. However, it was Theriot's first career big league homer away from Wrigley Field.

--RHP Jose Ascanio pitched three innings, working the 10th, 11th and 12th and keeping the Cubs in the game. Ascanio opened the season in the starting rotation at Class AAA Iowa before his May 10 call-up, and he's a good bet to stick in the Cubs bullpen.

--Lee extended his hitting streak to seven games. Lee is 10-for-29 during the streak, and he's 24-for-66 (.366) in his last 17 games dating to May 16.

BY THE NUMBERS: 100 -- RHP Carlos Zambrano reached career victory No. 100 last week in Cincinnati. LHP Ted Lilly needs three wins to reach 100.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "After this contract, I'm done. I'm serious. I don't want to play. I want to help this team, I want to do everything possible to win with this team, but after five years or four years, or whatever I have left on my contract, I just don't want to play. I want to stay home and see my daughters grow up and hang out with my family more." --Zambrano, 28, on his plans to retire when his contract expires in 2012 or 2013.


--RHP Rich Harden (back strain) was scratched from Sunday's scheduled rehab start for Class AAA Iowa (Des Moines) because of a stomach virus. Harden is set to pitch Monday. He was scheduled to come off the DL Friday and pitch against the Twins in Chicago, but that start may be pushed to Saturday.

--INF Aaron Miles is playing in a rehab stint in Iowa. He has been on the DL since May 27 (retro to May 26) with a strained right shoulder. The Cubs plan to activate him Wednesday in Houston.

--3B Aramis Ramirez (dislocated left shoulder) has started some light "baseball activities." The Cubs hope to activate him in early July.



At Des Moines, the Cubs (28-30) were held to six hits in the loss Sunday. C Steve Clevenger (2-for-4, double) and CF Sam Fuld (2-for-3, double, triple) led the offense with two hits apiece. Fuld is 11-for-28 through seven games in June and has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 contests. Miles started at second base and was 1-for-4 in a rehab appearance. RHP Esmailin Caridad (3-7) started and suffered his sixth straight loss, yielding four runs and seven hits in six innings. He struck out a season-high nine batters and walked one.


At Sevierville, the Smokies (24-34) collected 10 hits in the victory Sunday. 2B Tony Thomas, SS Darwin Barney and 3B Marquez Smith (all 2-for-4, double) led the way with two hits apiece. Barney tied a season-high with three RBI. 1B Blake Lalli (1-for-4) hit his third home run. RHP Casey Coleman (5-2) started and made his third straight quality start, scattering two runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out two batters and walked three to lower his ERA to 2.89 in 11 starts.


At Geneva, Ill., the Chiefs (30-24) fell behind 7-0 and couldn't recover in the loss Sunday. 2B Ryan Flaherty (1-for-3) hit his seventh home run for the Chiefs' only scoring and extra-base hit. RHP Christopher Archer (2-1) started and suffered his first loss, allowing two earned runs and five hits in four innings. He struck out four batters and walked two.


At Jupiter, Fla., Class-A Daytona's scheduled game against Jupiter was postponed due to rain. The game will be made up as a doubleheader Monday beginning at 5:05 p.m. ET.

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