Cubs looking for hitters to break out of slumps
Seven-year-old Spencer Brown, grandson of Hall of Famer Ron Santo, throws out the ceremonial first pitch during Ron Santo Day on Friday at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs made some strides with their struggling lineup Friday in a 9-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field.
Overall, though, they're getting too few contributions up and down the order.
Several Cubs hitters entered Friday's game in slumps. To wit:
• Right fielder Bryan LaHair was 4-for-17 on the recent road trip. He entered Friday 12-for-52 (. 231) in July and was 0-for-2 against the Cardinals. LaHair has not homered since the Fourth of July, and manager Dale Sveum pinch hit Reed Johnson for him in the eighth inning because the Cardinals brought in left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski.
• Third baseman Luis Valbuena was 0-for-15 on the road trip and 0-for-17 overall heading into Friday before he went 1-for-3 to see his season average go to .207 from .204.
• Catcher Geovany Soto doubled and singled his first 2 times up Friday, but he was 1-for-10 on the trip.
• Even shortstop Starlin Castro saw his average dip to .278 with a 5-for-24 trip before hitting an RBI single in Friday's first at-bat and a triple his next time up.
"Right now, it looks like some guys ... LaHair, we got to get some production out of that (spot)," Sveum said. "Valbuena looks like he's in a little, hopefully just a mini-slump right now, too. He had a tough series there in Pittsburgh. We have a lot of guys right now not on all cylinders offensively. Castro is getting his hit here and there. Sori's (Alfonso Soriano) been fine. Geo is having great at-bats and swinging OK. Yeah, we got to get a little bit better production of out of some spots, no doubt about it."
Garza pushed back:
Right-hander Matt Garza will not pitch until late next week, at the earliest, according to Dale Sveum.
Garza had an MRI earlier this week on his right triceps, which cramped on him during his start last Saturday in St. Louis.
Garza has been home most of the week as his wife prepares to give birth.
"When he came back to be with his wife, we ended up just getting an MRI, and that came back real positive, nothing really in there at all," Sveum said. "It all came back really clean except a little showing of the cramping in the triceps, just a little bitty trace of fluid in there that's getting better. And he's doing better so we'll just wait and see what happens with his throwing program, see how that goes. Possibly, maybe late next week."
With Garza still out, the Cubs' rotation for the Pittsburgh series looks like this: They're officially "TBD" for Monday, but newcomer Justin Germano is a possibility. Ryan Dempster, if he's not traded before then, will start Tuesday, with Travis Wood going Wednesday.
Anthony Rizzo's first-inning homer was his sixth of the season. Since he made his Cubs debut June 26, he leads all National League rookies with a .330 batting average (32-for-97), the 6 homers and 15 RBI.
"It was just one of those days where the ball was carrying well," Rizzo said. "The hitters took advantage of it."
In a pre-game ceremony the Cubs honored Ron Santo, who was posthumously inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame on Sunday. Santo's No. 10 uniform number was carved into the outfield grass and his 7-year-old grandson, Spencer Brown, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, which was received by former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood.
•Associated Press contributed to this report.
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