Lou Tired of Talking About Offense

Reporters probably should have some new questions to ask manager Lou Piniella when the Cubs return home from a long trip Friday.

For the second consecutive day, the Cubs scored only one run, this time in a 2-1, 13-inning loss to the Astros on Thursday.

After Wednesday's 2-1 loss in nine innings, Piniella all but threw up his hands with the traveling crew of reporters.

"You all ask me a lot of questions every night," he said. "I'm just going to have a sheet that I have my answer printed out on. I'm going to hand it out, and that's the end of it."

Piniella was referring to questions about the Cubs' struggling offense, questions that have been asked at home and on the road.

One thing Piniella pointed out earlier on the eight-game trip is that the Cubs got production last year from their Nos. 6-7-8 hitters, something that's not happening this year.

Catcher Geovany Soto anchored the 6-7-8 portion of the lineup in 2008, when he was the NL Rookie of the Year. Soto is showing signs of coming around now, but he's batting .219 with three homers. In Thursday's game, the Cubs' 6-7-8 hitters went 1-for-12.

ASTROS 2, CUBS 1 (13 innings): Jose Ascanio gave up a game-winning single to Geoff Blum in the 13th. Ryan Dempster started for the Cubs and went seven innings, giving up seven hits and one run. Derrek Lee homered in the ninth to tie the score at 1-1.


--RF Milton Bradley did not start Thursday, but he singled as a pinch hitter. Piniella and hitting coach Gerald Perry have been looking at video and are working with Bradley to make adjustments in his swing. Bradley is batting .215 with five homers.

--Soto provided the Cubs' only run Wednesday, as he led off the second inning with a home run. It was Soto's third homer of the year and his second in the past week.

--Dempster's ERA has gone from 4.99 to 3.87 since May 25. In his last three starts, Dempster has pitched 20 innings, giving up one earned run.

--RHP Rich Harden (mid-back strain) will come off the disabled list to start Saturday against the Twins. Harden reported losing eight pounds to a stomach bug, which pushed his minor league rehab start from Sunday to Monday of this week. A similar bug hit Harden during spring training.

--1B Derrek Lee extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a ninth-inning, game-tying homer. Lee is 14-for-39 (.359) during the streak.



At Des Moines, DH Jason Dubois (3-for-3) hit a grand slam and drove in five runs to pace the Cubs' (31-30) offense in the victory Thursday. LF John-Ford Griffin (4-for-5) collected a season-high four hits, and CF Sam Fuld (2-for-2, double, two RBI) added two hits. Iowa out-hit the Royals, 13-4, as RHP Kevin Hart (2-3) started and pitched seven innings, allowing two runs and four hits. He struck out five, walked three, and now has a 1.38 ERA in five starts spanning 26 innings.


At Mobile, Ala., the Smokies (26-35) collected nine hits in the loss Thursday. 2B Tony Thomas (2-for-4, double) and 3B Marquez Smith (2-for-4, double) led the offense in hits. Smith has four multi-hit games in his last six contests and is batting .283 through 41 games. Thomas has hit safely in five straight games and is batting .288 through 58 games overall. RHP Marcos Mateo (1-4) started and received the loss, allowing three runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked three.


At Daytona Beach, the Cubs (27-28) collected 13 hits in the victory Thursday. C Robinson Chirinos (3-for-5) paced the offense with three hits, including his 10th home run. A Florida State League All-Star, he leads the team with a .347 average through 30 games. 1B Jovan Rosa, RF Dylan Johnston and LF Jonathan Wyatt were all 2-for-4 with Rosa hitting his second home run. CF Tony Campana (1-for-5) had two stolen bases. RHP Andrew Cashner made his ninth start and went 4 1/3 innings, scattering two runs on four hits in a no-decision. LHP Luke Sommer (3-0) got the win in relief with 2 2/3 scoreless innings.


At Clinton, Iowa, the Chiefs (30-28) were held to six hits and committed four errors in the loss Thursday, their fifth in a row. DH Cliff Andersen (2-for-3) led the team in hits. CF Kyler Burke (1-for-3) hit his 25th double, the most in both Major League and Minor League Baseball. RHP Aaron Shafer (4-3) started and suffered the loss, allowing four runs (two earned) on three hits in 2 1/3 innings.

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