It wasn't much of a road trip for many of the Cubs' hitters.
But for shortstop Starlin Castro, it was particularly rough. Castro was 1-for-22 (.045) on the six-game swing to Los Angeles and San Diego.
He entered Thursday's night's game against the Reds at Wrigley Field batting .273. At the all-star break, he was at .291, and in late June, he was batting .308.
Manager Dale Sveum didn't sugarcoat it when asked if Castro needs to get back to the basics at the plate.
"Sometimes, guys have to understand that there are adjustments to be made in getting back to the simple things that got you here, whether it's tone down the leg kick, tone down all the hand movement or whatever, things he didn't do when he first got up to the big leagues," Sveum said.
"It's just getting more and more, really. To be more consistent, you have to calm things down to where your timing is a lot better and all that.
"He's still got to understand the consistency of at-bat by at-bat and grind it out and how I can be better, how I can get to another level."
Alfonso Soriano's 2-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning Thursday night lifted the Cubs to a 5-3 victory, ending their eight-game losing streak.
The home run was Soriano's 20th of the season. It marked the 11th straight year he has hit at least 20. He joined Albert Pujols and David Ortiz as the only sluggers to have 11 consecutive 20-plus-homer seasons, including 2012.
Soriano also joined Andre Dawson as the only players to hit 20 or more homers in each of their first six seasons with the Cubs.
Pitcher Matt Garza expressed hope that he could pitch again this season. Garza went on the disabled list earlier this week with what the Cubs describe as a "stress reaction" in his right elbow.
He has not pitched since July 21, when he came out of a game at St. Louis feeling cramping in his triceps. Garza returned to Chicago during the recent road trip, and doctors told him not to throw for two weeks.
"I was definitely surprised," he said. "I was throwing through this thing. I thought it was just another little bump. Doc said, 'You've got to shut it down.' Got to listen to the doc."
It will be hard for the highly active pitcher to sit in the dugout and watch his teammates play.
"They won't let me throw a ball; that's what I get paid to do," he said. "It's no fun to come here and sit down. I feel out of it. I don't like not playing. I'm not here to just watch."
Right-hander Chris Volstad started Thursday looking for his first victory since July 10, 2011, when he was a member of the Marlins.
Volstad is still looking as he wound up with a no-decision, pitching 6 innings of 6-hit, 3-run ball.
During a lengthy first inning, he gave up 2 runs. Todd Frazier homered leading off the fourth to give Cincinnati a 3-1 lead before the Cubs tied it in the sixth.
Dale Sveum was asked if getting one victory could get Volstad over the hump mentally.
"It was still, I'm sure, on his mind the last time he pitched, and he threw of the heck out of the ball and did a great job," Sveum said of a 7-inning performance in a loss to the Dodgers last Saturday.