Bradley must get it going (GETTY)
Although he acknowledged the importance of pitching and defense to winning, manager Lou Piniella noted that the winning teams this year were scoring runs.
The Cubs have fallen precipitously from their offensive production of a year ago, when they posted the best record in the National League.
To wit: The Cubs are 13th in the NL in runs scored, ninth in on-base percentage, 10th in walks and tied for eighth in slugging percentage.
In 2008, the Cubs were first in runs scored, walks, OBP and slugging.
This year, the Cubs have suffered from injuries and non-production from both infield corners, left field, right field and catcher.
The biggest jolt came when third baseman Aramis Ramirez dislocated his left shoulder in early May. He's begun light baseball work, but he's out at least another month. First baseman Derrek Lee and catcher Geovany Soto have begun to pick it up of late, but right fielder Milton Bradley is off to a .208 start, and the Cubs have to find a way to get him going.
In Tuesday's 7-1 victory at Houston, the Cubs were 6-for-19 with runners in scoring position, and they stranded 16 men on base.
CUBS 7, ASTROS 1: Ted Lilly turned in his ninth quality start by working 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball. He also tripled. The Cubs scored three in the first, and Lilly did the rest. Mike Fontenot had four hits, including a homer.
NEWS AND NOTES
--Lee entered Monday with a 1.008 on-base-plus-slugging percentage since May 16. He had gone 24-for-66 (.364) over that span. Against the Astros, he was 2-for-3 with three walks and two runs.
--Fontenot had a season-high four hits Tuesday. His homer leading off the third inning was his sixth of the year but his first since May 3. Fontenot also singled twice and doubled.
--CF Kosuke Fukudome was 3-for-19 on the trip entering Tuesday before going 2-for-4 with two walks.
--RHP Jose Ascanio pitched a big-league-high three innings Sunday, working the 10th, 11th and 12th and keeping the Cubs in the game. Ascanio opened the season in the rotation at Class AAA Iowa before his May 10 call-up, and he's a good bet to stick in the Cubs bullpen.
--RHP Rich Harden (mid-back strain) threw 4 2/3 innings Monday in a rehab start for Class AAA Iowa. Harden gave up three hits and two runs, one earned, and proclaimed himself ready to come off the disabled list Saturday to pitch against the Twins.
--Bradley was in the starting lineup Tuesday after missing four consecutive starts because of a right calf strain. Bradley has played in 42 of the Cubs' first 55 games. He had a rough night, going 0-for-6 with three strikeouts as his average fell to .208. He left four runners in scoring position with two outs.
--INF Aaron Miles rejoined the Cubs, and the club plans to activate him off the disabled list Wednesday. Miles has been bothered by a right shoulder strain. When Miles comes back, the Cubs will have to send either INF Bobby Scales, INF Andres Blanco or INF/OF Jake Fox to Class AAA (Des Moines) Iowa. If Fox goes, it's possible he could come back in two weeks to DH at AL parks.