With Ramirez out, Cubs stepping it up

Aramis Ramirez (STAFF PHOTO/PAM DAVIS)

The Cubs are doing a credible job of picking up the slack left by the absence of third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who is out until sometime in mid-July with a dislocated left shoulder.

In the seven games since Ramirez went down, the Cubs have outscored their opponents 43-33, and the team has gone 5-2.

Leading the way from a batting average standpoint is outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who is 12-for-27 (.444) in the last seven games with six runs scored and two RBI. Fukudome leads all Cubs in on-base percentage at .454, a mark that had him third in the NL entering Monday's action.

Left fielder Alfonso Soriano is providing the power. He is batting .313 (10-for-32) with three homers and seven RBI.

The Cubs are waiting for first baseman Derrek Lee and right fielder Milton Bradley to hit full stride, but they're showing signs of life. Lee is batting .333 (5-for-15) over his last four games with a homer. Bradley, who has weathered a groin problem and a suspension, is 6-for-17 (.353) with a homer and five RBI over his five games.

The one player the Cubs have to get going is infielder Mike Fontenot, who is getting most of the action at third base. He has one hit in his last 20 at-bats, and Piniella might go over some things with him before the series in St. Louis begins.

"It's a bigger adjustment for people than what you think it is, especially at the big-league level," Piniella said. "Sometimes, you start thinking a little too much. Most of the time, it's the wrong thing to do."

NEWS AND NOTES

--LHP Ted Lilly, who starts Tuesday's series opener at St. Louis, is the Cubs' leading winner with a 5-2 record. He's riding a three-game winning streak. Lilly, who has his fastball, curve and change working, has 37 wins in two-plus years with the Cubs.

--Soriano has hit safely in six of his last seven games, going 10-for-32 (.313) with three homers, six runs and seven RBI. Health has been an issue with Soriano the last couple of years, but he has played in 35 of the Cubs' 36 games this year and has reported no problems with his legs.

--C Geovany Soto appears to be on the upswing after a slow start, during which he was plagued by a sore right shoulder. Soto is 8-for-24 over his last seven games with a homer and six RBI.

--SS Ryan Theriot is on an extra-base tear. Of his last 14 hits, 10 have gone for extra bases (four doubles, a triple and five home runs). The jury is out on whether Theriot is benefiting from trying to "drive" the ball instead of "guiding" it as Piniella wants him to do. In his last seven games, Theriot is 5-for-23 (.217). However he takes a four-game hitting streak into Tuesday's series opener at St. Louis.

--INF Bobby Scales has reached base in all eight of the games in which he has played. Scales came up from the minor leagues May 4. Piniella said that as long as Scales performs, he'll keep putting him in the lineup.

IOWA 12, SALT LAKE 3 (CLASS AAA)

At Salt Lake City, Utah, the Cubs (20-17) collected 13 hits in the victory Monday. C Jake Fox (2-for-4, walk) hit his Pacific Coast League leading 17th home run and drove in four runs. Fox has hit safely in 10 straight games and is batting .429 on the season, including .506 in road games. His start at catcher was his first since July 13, 2007. DH Matt Matulia (2-for-5, double), SS Andres Blanco (2-for-4) and 2B David Macias (2-for-4, RBI) each added two hits with Blanco hitting his fourth home run. LHP J.R. Mathes (6-3) started and picked up his Cubs farm system best sixth win, tossing six innings and surrendering three runs and eight hits to go with five strikeouts and one walk. He allowed his first home run since April 13. Mathes has allowed only three walks through 38 innings this season.

TENNESSEE 8, CHATTANOOGA 7 – GAME 1 (CLASS AA)

At Chattanooga, Tenn., the Smokies totaled 13 hits in the seven-inning victory Monday with 3B Marquez Smith (3-for-4) hitting his sixth home run and his first since being promoted to Double-A. SS Darwin Barney (2-for-3, RBI, walk), C Steve Clevenger (2-for-3, walk) and RF Richie Robnett (2-for-4, two RBI) each added two hits. LHP John Gaub (2-0) picked up the win in relief with one scoreless inning. RHP Casey Coleman started and allowed four runs and six hits in four innings.

CHATTANOOGA 5, TENNESSEE 4 – GAME 2

The Lookouts rallied for the win in their last at-bat off RHP Blake Lalli (0-1), who made his 13th career pitching appearance and allowed the winning run and two hits in two-thirds of an inning. LHP James Russell started and turned in his best performance of the season, allowing one run and three hits over five innings in a no-decision. He struck out a season-high seven batters and walked one in his first start since April 21. 2B Tony Thomas (1-for-3, walk) hit his career-high eighth home run, and Smith (3-for-4) added three hits, including his seventh home run. Barney (3-for-4) also tallied three hits, including his seventh double. The Smokies (17-17) collected 11 hits in the loss.

DAYTONA 10, DUNEDIN 3 (CLASS HIGH A)

At Dunedin, Fla., the Cubs (18-19) collected 10 hits in the victory Monday. CF Tony Campana (2-for-4, two walks), 3B Jovan Rosa (2-for-5, double, triple) and 2B Nate Samson (2-for-3, two walks, two RBI) each collected two hits. RHP Andrew Cashner made his fifth start and allowed two runs and four hits in two innings for a no-decision. He struck out four batters and walked two. RHP Henry Williamson (3-2) picked up the win in relief, tossing 3 1/3 innings and allowing one run and three hits. He struck out six without allowing a walk.

PEORIA 10, BELOIT 6 (CLASS A)

At Beloit, Wis., the Chiefs (20-16) collected 14 hits in the victory Monday. Red-hot 3B Josh Vitters (3-for-5, three RBI) hit his sixth home run and fifth of the month, and his seventh double. Vitters is batting .362 for the year and .425 over his last 11 games. He has three hits in each of his last four contests. He was one of five Peoria players to finish with two hits or more, joining LF Josh Harrison (2-for-4, double, RBI), SS Ryan Flaherty (2-for-5), 1B Kyler Burke (2-for-5, double) and DH Cliff Andersen (2-for-4, double). RHP Marcus Hatley (3-1) started and picked up the win, allowing three earned runs and six hits in five innings. He struck out two and walked five.

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