Cubs Embark on Road Trip

Piniella is feeling optimistic (AP)

Though May featured injuries and suspensions, the Cubs finished the month with a record of 15-13. They're 25-24 overall heading into a three-city, nine-game road trip that begins Tuesday in Atlanta.

Manager Lou Piniella is feeling optimistic.

"I think we've gone through the worst of it," Piniella said. "I think we've got to be tough and dogged and continue to play hard and win our share of games. When we get our people totally healthy, I think we're going to have a good run."

Piniella cited the rising batting averages of several players over the last two weeks, and he said he expects those averages to rise even more over the coming weeks.

Even so, those averages are nothing special. Alfonso Soriano is at .246. Derrek Lee is batting .248. Milton Bradley is at .224. Geovany Soto is at .214. Mike Fontenot is at .224.

The Cubs have only two players, outfielder Kosuke Fukudome and shortstop Ryan Theriot, in the top 40 in on-base percentage. They are a middle-of-the-pack team in the key offensive categories in the NL.

"I think we're fortunate, I really do," Piniella said. "I think it has to do with the competitiveness in this division. I think it has to do with the fact that if you look at home-team record throughout the National League, it's not the easiest thing in the world to go into your opponent's park and win. It has something to say about our team. We've lost basically most of our big people. We've been able to hold on. It hasn't been easy all year, I'll be honest with you."

The Cubs get ace pitcher Carlos Zambrano back Thursday from his suspension. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, the team's most productive hitter, is out at least another month with a dislocated left shoulder. Other players have had nagging injuries.

ROSTER REPORT

--Fukudome figures to see more playing time this week as the Braves throw three right-handed pitchers at the Cubs. Fukudome sat in favor of Reed Johnson for five of the seven games on the recent homestand. The Cubs may have to find a way to play Johnson, who has a six-game hitting streak (10-for-22).

--Soriano has no homers and no RBI over the last two weeks. Soriano says he's been bothered for the last month by a sore left knee. His average has dropped from .280 two weeks ago to .246. His on-base percentage stands at only .307.

--LHP Jason Waddell made his major league debut Sunday night. Waddell, who began his pro career in 2001, pitched one inning, giving up one hit and striking out two in relief. The Cubs invited him to spring training as a non-roster man and called him up last week when they sent LHP Neal Cotts to Class AAA Iowa.

--RHP Randy Wells takes an 0-2 record but a 1.80 ERA into Tuesday's start in Atlanta. Wells has made four starts since his call-up from Iowa on May 8. Piniella says he likes that Wells has been able to get three pitches over the plate consistently. In 25 innings pitched, Wells has walked seven and struck out 23. He figures to be in the rotation for the foreseeable future.

--C Geovany Soto has thrown out only 6 of 32 baserunners trying to steal this year. Piniella expressed concern Sunday night about Soto's throwing woes. He had been bothered earlier this season with a sore right shoulder. Last year's Rookie of the Year has had trouble at the plate, too. He's batting .216 with one homer and 12 RBI. His on-base percentage is .336 and his slugging percentage is still an anemic .272.

MINOR LEAGUES

MEMPHIS 6, IOWA 2 (CLASS AAA)

At Memphis, Tenn., the Cubs (26-26) were out-hit 14-13 in the loss Monday. CF Sam Fuld (3-for-5) paced the offense with three hits atop the order. 3B Nate Spears (2-for-5), 1B Doug Deeds (2-for-5), RF John-Ford Griffin (2-for-4) and 2B David Macias (2-for-4) all collected two hits. Iowa stranded 12 runners on base. RHP Mitch Atkins (2-7) started and suffered his fourth straight loss, allowing six runs and 10 hits in four innings. He struck out three batters and did not allow a walk. Atkins' seven losses are the most in the Cubs' system and already match his loss total from a season ago.

CAROLINA 9, TENNESSEE 2 (CLASS AA)

At Zebulon, N.C., the Smokies (21-31) were out-hit 14-5 en route to their ninth consecutive loss Monday. LF Ty Wright (2-for-4) paced the offense with two hits, extending his hit streak to 11 consecutive games. OF Tyler Colvin (1-for-2, walk) made his first start since being promoted from Class High-A Daytona and collected his sixth double of the season. RHP Hung-Wen Chen (2-5) started and suffered the loss, allowing eight runs and 11 hits in three innings. He has lost four straight decisions and hasn't won since April 16.

DAYTONA 4, SARASOTA 0 (CLASS HIGH-A)

At Daytona Beach, C Robinson Chirinos (2-for-4, three RBI) clubbed two home runs for the second straight day to lead the Cubs (22-23) to the victory Monday. He has four homers and 11 RBI over his last two games and is batting .355 through 22 games. 3B Marwin Gonzalez (2-for-4) picked up two hits for the third straight night. RHP Ryan Searle (4-3) started and picked up the victory. He threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing nine hits.

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