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Piniella hints shakeup as weak efforts go on
How offensive has the Cubs' offense been at supporting their pitchers this season?
Consider this: In the last three games, Cincinnati hitters were held scoreless in 25 of 27 inningsand won two of the games.
And this: Pitcher Carlos Zambrano has more home runs than the entire Cubs' outfield combined: one.
So now, after Sunday's 1-0 loss to the Reds, manager Lou Piniella is talking about shaking things up in hopes of creating some of those crooked numbers he so loves.
"We'll make some changes if we have to," Piniella said. "Put some different people in there and let them play."
The offense Sunday came mainly from Ryan Theriot, who collected three of the Cubs' four hits and has guaranteed himself more playing time after going 8-for-12 in the series while filling in at third base for injured Aramis Ramirez.
"I'm going to play people who are getting the job done, and he's swinging the bat well," Piniella said. "We've got to find a place to put him. The kid deserves to play."
But that will not be easy, especially now that team home run leader Mark DeRosa (two) has returned to the lineup after being out because of back spasms.
Theriot has played the outfield and could be used there, but that wouldn't bring an end to the home run drought for which Cliff Floyd, Alfonso Soriano and Jacque Jones are primarily responsible.
Soriano stroked a double Sunday, but he also struck out twice and is hitting just .234 with no homers and one RBI.
Something has to give for an offense that couldn't take advantage of Ted Lilly's six-inning, 10-strikeout, two-hit, one-run outing, backed up by three scoreless innings from Michael Wuertz and Ryan Dempster.
The only run off Lilly came in the fourth, when he walked leadoff hitter Brandon Phillips, then yielded a stolen base and an RBI single.
"That's not what beat us," Piniella said. "What beat us was the fact we put no runs up on the board and we left runners on first and third with no outs in the sixth."
Yes, that's what the Cubs did after Soriano led off with a double and Theriot singled off Kyle Lohse, who finished eight innings with 12 strikeouts.
Third hitter Jones struck out swinging at a bad pitch, cleanup man Derrek Lee was called out on strikes and fifth hitter Michael Barrett flied out.
Jones is hitting .244 with no homers and no RBIs, and Piniella wasn't happy with his at-bat.
"If you put the ball in play and they get a double play, you still score a run and the game's tied," Piniella said.
"In that situation
all I want to do is put the bat on the ball, and I tried to force it instead of waiting for a pitch I could [hit]," Jones said.
Lee had other theories about what happened Sunday.
"I have a hard time being upset with hitting," he said. "Kyle Lohse, you're not going to pitch as well as he did. Sometimes you've got to tip your cap, and today was one of them.
"[But] no doubt we're going to score. We're too good not to."
Said Floyd: "We've got too good a team to be in this position. Hopefully things will turn around because I'm not looking forward to any long summers of coming to the park without something to play for."
"One of these days," Lilly said, "we're going to score a lot of runs and I'm not going to pitch very well and get the win. So I won't feel guilty about that."
Lilly has a sterling 2.37 ERA but only a 1-1 record.
"I'm not too excited right now," he said. "I've had three starts and we're not winning a lot of games. We're not winning games at a pace I think we should be.
"You can go out and throw the ball reasonably well, but the objective is to come away with a win at the end of the day, and we didn't do that. So I'm not satisfied."