The biggest bright spot has been right-hander Angel Guzman, who finally appears to be over the injury problems that had plagued his career.
Guzman earned a hold in Friday night's 2-1 victory at Cincinnati. More important, he seems to have supplanted veteran righty Aaron Heilman as the main bridge to late men Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg.
Piniella cited not only Guzman's stuff, but his ability to throw strikes. Guzman has walked eight in 25 2/3 innings while Heilman has walked 16 in 23 innings.
Speaking of walks, they remain a problem for Marmol, who issued two in one inning of work against the Reds. That gives Marmol 25 walks in 26 innings. Last season, Marmol walked 41 in 87 1/3 innings.
Gregg earned his 10th save in 12 chances. He's given up 25 hits and 13 walks in 24 1/3 innings. He finally got his ERA under 5.00, at 4.81.
CUBS 2, REDS 1: RHP Carlos Zambrano notched the 100th victory of his career. He also homered to put the Cubs ahead 2-0. RHP Carlos Marmol allowed a run, but closer Kevin Gregg worked out of trouble in the ninth for his 10th save.
NEWS AND NOTES
--IF Aaron Miles will join RHP Rich Harden this weekend on a rehab assignment with Class AAA Iowa (Des Moines). Miles has been on the DL since May 27 with a strained right shoulder. Harden will start Sunday for Iowa. He's on the DL with a mid-back strain. He's scheduled to start for the Cubs next Friday against the Twins in Chicago.
--1B Derrek Lee extended his hitting streak to five games. He's 7-for-17 in the streak. Lee entered Friday 20-for-51 (.392) over his previous 14 games, dating to May 16. His OPS in that stretch was 1.130.
--C Koyie Hill made his second straight start behind the plate. Geovany Soto, last year's Rookie of the Year, got another "mental breather" from Piniella. Soto met with Piniella Thursday in Atlanta to talk about his situation. Piniella said his plan was "flexible," but it appears Soto may start Saturday. He's batting .209 with one homer.
--RHP Carlos Zambrano moved into sixth place on the Cubs' all-time strikeout list. He struck out seven, giving him 1,225 for his career, surpassing Bill Hutchinson, who had 1,222. Zambrano also homered, giving him two this year and 18 for his career.
--RF Milton Bradley took part in running drills on the grass but did not take part in the game. Bradley is nursing a strained right calf, but the Cubs do not expect him to go on the DL. The club says it's possible Bradley could pinch-hit this weekend, but that it's more likely he'll see his next action in Houston, with a series that begins Tuesday.
IOWA 2, NASHVILLE 1 (CLASS AAA)
At Nashville, Tenn., the Cubs (27-29) out-hit the Sounds 9-2 to snap a six-game losing skid Friday. LF John-Ford Griffin and 1B Doug Deeds (both 2-for-4) paced the Cubs’ offense with two hits with Deeds hitting his 10th double. RHP Kevin Hart (1-3) started and got his first win, tossing five scoreless innings and allowing one hit. He struck out five batters and walked five. In four starts since moving into the rotation from the bullpen, he has a 0.95 ERA in 19 innings.
TENNESSEE 5, CHATTANOOGA 2 (CLASS AA)
At Sevierville, the Smokies (22-34) broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run eighth inning to snap a 12-game losing skid Friday. SS Darwin Barney (3-for-4, double, two RBI) and RF Jim Adduci (3-for-4, double, RBI) both had three hits to pace the offense. Tennessee out-hit the Lookouts, 10-4. RHP Marcos Mateo started and received a no-decision, allowing two runs and four hits in six innings. He walked four and struck out one. LHP Jayson Ruhlman (2-0) tossed two scoreless innings in relief for the victory. He has a 0.75 ERA (1 ER/12 IP) in nine relief appearances with Tennessee.
DAYTONA 6, CHARLOTTE 1 (CLASS HIGH-A)
At Port Charlotte, Fla., the Cubs (24-25) crashed through with five runs in the ninth inning to break a 1-1 tie in the victory Friday. CF Tony Campana (3-for-5) paced the offense with three hits atop the order, and SS Starlin Castro (2-for-3, walk), 1B Jovan Rosa (2-for-4, triple, three RBI), and DH Jericho Jones (2-for-3, double) all added two hits. RHP Andrew Cashner started and tossed three scoreless innings in a no-decision, allowing three hits to go with a walk and two strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to 1.75 (5 ER/25.2 IP) through eight starts. LHP Luke Sommer (1-1) earned the win in relief with three scoreless innings.
PEORIA 5, BELOIT 1 (CLASS-A)
At Peoria, the Chiefs (29-23) collected 10 hits in the victory Friday. C Michael Brenly (1-for-2) drove in three runs and hit his second home run. 1B Rebel Ridling (2-for-4) collected two hits and extended his hit streak to seven games, in which he is 12-for-31. RHP Chris Carpenter (2-3) started and earned his first win since April 28, tossing five scoreless innings and allowing a walk and five hits while striking out four batters. He has not allowed a run in four of his 11 starts this season.
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