Ryan Dempster looks to be back to where he should be on the pitcher's mound.
The Cubs' offense in the batter's box? Not so much.
Dempster gave the Cubs 7 good innings on a mostly sunny Mother's Day Sunday, but the 2 runs he gave up to the Cincinnati Reds were 2 too many as the visitors got out of town with a 2-0 victory and two of three in the series.
Dempster turned in quality start, giving up 5 hits while walking nobody. It was his second solid performance in a row, but his record stands at 1-4 with a 7.20 ERA.
"I'm doing a better job of executing pitches," he said. "I was able to keep the ball down for the most part today. I gave us a chance to win, and we had some chances.
"But we keep playing as hard as we're playing and guys keep working as hard as we're working, the results will turn around because we've been giving it everything we have every game. Good things will happen. We've got a bunch of good guys working really hard."
Dempster gave up an RBI single to Ramon Hernandez in the second and a solo homer to Drew Stubbs in the fifth.
That was all the Reds needed because the Cubs' offense couldn't break through again, this time against Johnny Cueto, who made his first start of the season off the disabled list.
Here are some numbers:
•The Cubs left nine men on base, running their series total to 25.
•Cubs hitters were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. For the season the Cubs are 59-for-277 (.213) with runners in scoring position.
•The Cubs left the bases loaded twice, with Aramis Ramirez flying out to end the third and the slumping Starlin Castro bouncing into a forceout in the seventh. Ramirez has not hit a home run since April 6. He says he believes the production will come.
"Hopefully," he said. "It's been tough to hit extra bases here lately. Wind blowing in every day, almost. Nothing you can do about it. I've been here for a while, and I know it's going to happen early in the year.
"Hopefully it can make up sooner or later. We're losing games because we're not hitting the way we like to. We hit some balls hard, but the wind was blowing in."
Manager Mike Quade's club is 15-18, while the Reds are 18-16. The Cubs lost 5-4 and 2-0 to the Reds and beat them 3-2.
"We look at Cincinnati and believe we can play with them," Quade said. "But we've got to get better to beat them. It was a good three-game series. If we keep getting that kind of starting pitching, we'll be fine."
As far as the hitting goes, Quade says he sees no rhyme or reason to the lack of timeliness.
"You just believe that if you continue to get hits like we get that we'll start to do damage with people in scoring position," he said. "I'll sit here and say that until the cows come home because I do believe that.
"And I also think that it can be contagious. So you're waiting for that game where a couple of guys get it done, and all of a sudden, everybody chips in.
"There's no magic formula. You've just got to keep at it, try and be patient and try and have at-bats realizing that guy out there (the pitcher) is in trouble and you don't need to be in a hurry to do your damage.
"But that goes against human nature, so it's a tough thing."