Home Run or Bust for Cubs

Ramirez still not hitting (AP)

It's been home run or bust for the Cubs so far. Cubs manager Lou Piniella has continually had to address questions about the middle of the order not hitting. First baseman Derrek Lee is batting .205, and third baseman Aramis Ramirez is at .152.

In Friday's 11-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, Lee went 2-for-5, and Ramirez was 0-for-4 with a bases-loaded walk.

Piniella wants his two power guys to provide some power, and soon.

"Look, the reasons that we struggle here from time to time is that we're more of a home run club, at least that's been the trend here earlier in the year," Piniella said. "I think it was a bit of a trend last year. When you're not hitting home runs, it becomes a little more difficult to score runs. We don't really have the best manufacturing type team. So we've got to take advantage of these days when the wind is blowing out."

The Cubs' record is 11-13. In games when they've hit at least one homer, they're 9-4.

Despite the struggles of Lee and Ramirez, Piniella says he has no plans to sit either of them.

"We need Lee and Ramirez to hit, and they're not going to do much hitting sitting on the bench," he said. "We need for them to get hot and start swinging the bats the way they're capable of. We can give them a breather from time to time, but the secret with them is let them get their at-bats and get their playing time, and hopefully, they'll come around quickly."

CUBS 11, DIAMONDBACKS 5: The Cubs came back from a 4-1 deficit with a run in the fifth and four in the sixth. Alfonso Soriano hit a three-run homer to cap the sixth. The Cubs got three more in the seventh and two in the eighth, on homers by Geovany Soto and Marlon Byrd. Randy Wells improved to 3-0 by working six innings and giving up eight hits and five runs.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Soriano picked up a double and a three-run homer. He also walked with the bases loaded in the seventh. Soriano, never known as a patient hitter, has eight walks and a .358 OBP. Is he making an effort to be more patient?

"Not really, I just want to swing at my pitch," he said. "I want to be very aggressive at home plate, but just swing at strikes."

--Byrd wasn't happy about sitting at the start of Friday's game, but he singled as a pinch hitter and added a solo homer. He ended the month batting .348 with four homers.

"I just want to be in there every single day; he understands that," Byrd said of Piniella. "I'm always ready. I told him, 'Whenever you need me, let me know.'"

--Ryan Theriot extended his hitting streak to 10 games. He also laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt during the Cubs' three-run seventh. He's 22-for-47 (.468) during the streak. Theriot has been the Cubs' primary leadoff hitter, and his OBP is at .370.

--Ted Lilly gave up seven hits and six runs in Thursday's 13-5 loss to Arizona. The velocity on Lilly's fastball has been noticeably down. Piniella noted that with it being Lilly's second start of the year after rehabbing from elbow surgery, there's no real cause for concern yet.

"He's going to add 3-4 miles per hour to his fastball," Piniella said. "(Thursday), what was wrong with Teddy was he got the ball up with the wind blowing out, and that's not good. His velocity will improve, yes. Remember, this was his second major-league start, and he'll get more arm strength."

--Xavier Nady did not start for the sixth straight game. The Cubs have been easing Nady in because he's coming back from last July's Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Piniella said the Cubs are not thinking about putting Nady on the DL.

"No, I don't look at it that way," Piniella said. "Look, I've got to get him into the lineup this weekend. That means somebody else will have to sit."

--Kosuke Fukudome capped off another strong April by going 2-for-3 with three runs, a homer and two walks. He's batting .344 with a .443 OBP. Entering this year, he was a .338 hitter in the first month of the season.

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