Cubs Offense Awakening?

Little by little, the Cubs offense is starting to awaken. According to manager Lou Piniella, it started happening last week even as the Cubs were losing three of four games in New York.

"We started to hit the ball a little bit in the Mets series," Piniella said Tuesday. "We got people on base, hit the ball solidly and didn't get them in with any consistency. In Milwaukee, we continued to hit and added a little power to the equation, and we started getting some runs. (Monday) night, it was pitchers' weather, but we still hit some balls hard."

The Cubs are batting .267 as a team, sixth in the National League. They've seen their walks rate go up lately, inducing eight in Monday's game to give them a six-game average of five walks. Before that, the Cubs had averaged 3.4 walks per game in their first 14 games.

"A little patience, which is good," Piniella said. "That goes hand in hand with good hitting. You start laying off bad pitches, it's much easier to hit."

Derrek Lee and Geovany Soto lead the Cubs in walks with 15 apiece.

NATIONALS 3, CUBS 1: Tom Gorzelanny pitched well, but he gave up two runs in the first inning, and that was all Washington needed. The Cubs outhit the Nationals 7-6, but all they could manage was an RBI forceout by Soto in the second inning.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Alfonso Soriano drew three walks in Monday's game. It was the first time he had walked at least three times in a game since May 22, 2007, at San Diego. Soriano says he is still going to be aggressive at the plate but that he's trying to swing at his pitch and not the pitcher's.

--Ryan Theriot extended his hitting streak to seven games. He was 1-for-4. He came into the game with six straight multi-hit games.

--Marlon Byrd had his hitting streak snapped at five games with an 0-for-4 night.

--John Grabow and Sean Marshall will share important bullpen duties from the left side, according to Piniella, who was asked if Marshall had moved ahead of Grabow as the primary lefty out of the bullpen.

"I'm using Sean a little bit as a situational lefty, with the good breaking ball against left-handers," Piniella said. "But I am leaning on Grabow and Marshall more than I am (James) Russell and more than I am with the other ... young pitchers that we have in our bullpen."

--Lee saw his batting average fall to .203 as he went 0-for-4. Lee did hit the ball hard, however. He was victimized by three different Nationals. He lined to Alberto Gonzalez at third base, flied to Josh Willingham, who made a running catch in deep left, and saw a grounder snagged up the middle by Ian Desmond.

--Gorzelanny turned in the Cubs' 15th quality start. Gorzelanny has two quality starts and has pitched well overall, but his record is 0-3 with a good ERA of 2.45.

"Our goal is to go deep into games and try not to put it on the bullpen," Gorzelanny said.

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