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Piniella facing 'tough decisions'
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

Cubs manager Lou Piniella walks out to remove Ryan Dempster from the game Wednesday.


Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

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Published: 6/17/2009 6:19 PM | Updated: 6/17/2009 9:59 PM

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Has Lou Piniella seen enough?

It may be getting to that point.

After spending much of this season to date in a mode of exasperation, Piniella sounded ready to shake things up after Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the White Sox at Wrigley Field.

To vary on a riff from famed TV voice Jack Brickhouse, here are the unhappy totals:

• The Cubs managed just 5 hits and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

• Cubs batters managed nary a walk while striking out 11 times. Against the Twins last Friday, they walked once and struck out 12 times.

• Leadoff man Alfonso Soriano, the supposed sparkplug for the Cubs offense, went 0-for-4 while managing to scratch out an RBI groundout. His on-base percentage has sunk to .291, far less than acceptable for a leadoff man.

"It's getting to the point where I'm going to have to start making some tough decisions and get different people in the lineup," said Piniella, whose team fell to 30-31 for the season and to 1-3 on the homestand. "I've been real patient with it, but I tell you, it's getting to that point.

"How do I go through it? Just look what we've been through here over the past I don't know how many days or how many games. But anyway, we'll see."

Piniella doesn't have a whole lot of realistic options other than benching Soriano for a few days.

The Cubs' $136 million left fielder is batting .225 with 14 homers, 28 RBI, 68 strikeouts and 22 walks.

"He has to do something because we haven't done anything," said Soriano, who chafes at days off and at moving down in the batting order. "He's got to do something to try to make this thing go."

The Cubs put the first two runners aboard in the second, but Reed Johnson hit into a double play and Mike Fontenot grounded out.

In the fourth, Ryan Theriot and Milton Bradley singled to put runners on the corners, but the Cubs couldn't score.

Worse yet for the Cubs, two American League clubs have walked into Wrigley Field and out-executed the Cubs with some National League-style ball.

Twins pitchers got bunts down. White Sox pitcher John Danks got a bunt down and then swung away in the seventh with runners on first and second to thwart the Cubs' bunt defense and get one runner moved up.

Right after that, Scott Podsednik perfectly executed a squeeze bunt.

"It's just a good play," said Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee. "It's in the back of your mind, but you can't really defend a squeeze if he bunts it in the right spot."

To a man, the Cubs insisted the only thing they can do is keep grinding until things get better. The Cubs have a roster full of veteran hitters, making things all the more perplexing.

"For the most part, yeah, for the most part they are proven hitters," Piniella said. "It does make it more perplexing, but sooner or later, you've got to start hitting. If not, you've got to give somebody else a chance, that's all."

Theriot offered one ray of hope, in a manner of speaking.

"The good news is it can't get much worse," he said.

That remains to be seen.

Bruce Miles' Cubs tracker

No-command performance: Starting pitcher Ryan Dempster (4-4) took the loss. He threw 104 pitches, but only 51 for strikes. Dempster fell behind in the count 1-0 to 15 of the 26 batters he faced.

Cold comfort: Dempster recorded his ninth quality start, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits in 6 innings. The Cubs lead the major leagues with 39 quality starts.

D-Lee streak: First baseman Derrek Lee singled in the second inning to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. Lee has reached base safely in his last 24 games.

LOB blues: The Cubs have stranded 67 runners in their last eight games, including 2 in scoring position Wednesday. They are 14-for-75 (.187) with runners in scoring position in the eight-game span.