Are Things Looking up for Cubs?

Dempster back from DL (STAFF PHOTO/PAM DAVIS)

Things have been looking up for the Cubs recently. They held first place in the NL Central for several days this week, and their hitters are finally starting to put a consistent offense together.

"Guys have been competing and hanging in there," GM Jim Hendry said Tuesday. "Some of the games we won over the weekend and (Monday) night were the type we were losing earlier in the year. That's a good sign. The effort's been great."

Hendry said he spent much of Tuesday waiting for other teams to call him back about possible trades.

With the Cubs' ownership situation still in flux and the team playing better of late, it's unlikely Hendry will make a major splash by the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

Published reports say the Cubs are looking for left-handed relief help. The names of Washington's Joe Beimel and Pittsburgh's John Grabow have been in the news concerning the Cubs.

Hendry repeated that he may end up doing nothing by Friday, but that he'd be open to a deal that even helped the Cubs "a little." He also noted the Cubs have made waiver trades past July 31 in previous years, and he wouldn't rule it out again for this year.

ASTROS 11, CUBS 6: Ryan Dempster, returning from the disabled list, gave up nine hits and six runs (five earned) in six innings as he got a no-decision. The Astros scored five runs over the final three innings against the Chicago bullpen.

NOTES

--C Koyie Hill started his 18th consecutive game Tuesday. He's filling in for Geovany Soto, who is out at least another week while rehabbing an oblique muscle strain. The last Cubs catcher to start at least 18 straight was Damon Berryhill, who started 25 in a row in 1989.

--3B Aramis Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning to tie Tuesday's game at 6-6. He has a six-game hitting streak. Ramirez has at least one extra-base hit in each of those six games, three homers and five doubles.

--RHP Jeff Stevens gave up his first two runs of the season with two in the eighth inning Tuesday. He walked two, and both came around to score. Stevens had opened his big-league career with four scoreless outings.

--LHP Ted Lilly underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Monday. Lilly was put on the DL Saturday because of left shoulder inflammation, and he decided to take care of the knee, which has been bothering him recently. He is expected to miss 4-5 starts.

--RHP Justin Berg was optioned to Class AAA Iowa. Berg did not make an appearance after being called up from Iowa last Saturday.

--CF Kosuke Fukudome extended his hitting streak to a career-best 10 games. He was 2-for-4 with a walk Tuesday and is 15-for-37 in the streak. As a leadoff hitter, he's batting .321 (17-for-53).

--LHP Sean Marshall, who has worked in three straight games, gave up two hits but no runs in two-thirds of an inning. He has a 0.53 ERA over his last 23 games, dating to June 12.

--LHP B.J. Ryan, who signed a minor league deal with the Cubs earlier this month, made his debut in the organization Tuesday, tossing a shutout inning for Class AAA Iowa. In 25 appearances for Toronto this season, Ryan was 1-1 with two saves and a 6.53 ERA.

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