Cubs May Have Trouble Making Move at Deadline

As bad as the Cubs looked in two of the three games this week at Philadelphia, they find themselves one game better in the loss column than the first-place St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cubs swept the lowly Washington Nationals in four games before losing two of three to the Phillies. A key in Wednesday's 10-5 victory over the Phillies was that the Cubs drew nine walks. The night before, in a 13-inning, 4-1 loss, Cubs batters struck out 11 times and didn't draw a single walk.

That prompted manager Lou Piniella to wonder if he had enough "pieces" on offense. In the heat of the moment, he even remarked that the Cubs might have to deal for "two bats" by the July 31 trading deadline.

Cubs GM Jim Hendry likely won't make any serious moves. The Cubs' ownership situation is in flux, and the Cubs are hamstrung by several long-term contracts and no-trade clauses.

The Cubs will have a big say in the division race coming up, and they'll do so at home, where they are 27-18, compared with 21-27 on the road.

They have three coming up with the Reds and four, including a makeup game next Thursday, with Houston, which is making noise in the NL Central. The Cubs are close to getting pitcher Ryan Dempster off the disabled list, and the bullpen is pitching well.

Piniella is still waiting for right fielder Milton Bradley to get going after taking two intensive days of instruction. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, as expected, has been slow to return to offensive form coming off the disabled list after missing almost two months because of a dislocated left shoulder.

NOTES

--RHP Kevin Gregg is 19-for-22 in save opportunities. He has saved eight in a row. He pitched 1 1/3 innings for a save Wednesday at Philadelphia and 1 2/3 innings for a save July 18 at Washington. He has improved his ERA from 6.06 to 3.15 over his last 28 games.

--LF Alfonso Soriano has batted sixth in 12 of his last 14 games. The former leadoff man has gone 19-for-53 (.358) over that time. On the Cubs' trip, he was 10-for-24.

--SS Ryan Theriot brings a five-game hitting streak (7-for-19) into the weekend series against the Reds. Theriot has his batting average up to .300, and he leads the Cubs with 107 hits. His batting average is tops among Cubs who have played the whole season. He has appeared in 92 of the Cubs' 93 games.

--Ramirez is 10-for-46 (.217) since coming off the disabled list July 6. Ramirez missed almost two months with a dislocated left shoulder. He has one homer, one double and four RBIs since his return.

--1B Derrek Lee has hit safely in 39 of his last 45 games. He has 11 homers and 33 RBIs over his last 32 games, including seven homers and 21 RBIs in July.

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