Notes: Piniella wants to see results
Skipper frustrated after Cubs strand 15 on base in loss
HOUSTON -- It's too late to sign up the Cubs hitters to be participants on "Extreme Makeover." They are what they are offensively, and there will be no change for the remaining 2 1/2 weeks of the regular season.
After going 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranding 15 baserunners on Tuesday in a 5-4, 11-inning loss to Houston, Cubs manager Lou Piniella was asked if the hitters could change their approach.
"Our hitters have been aggressive all year," Piniella said. "Is it going to change in September for the last two weeks? I don't think so.
"You hope you get a little selective and get a pitch to hit and give yourself a better chance," he said. "Outside of that, you're not going to change anything here the last two weeks of the season. I don't think any team can change too much of what it's been from the early part of the season."
Plus, the Cubs don't have many hitters who will take pitches and be patient. Perfect example was Thursday when Alfonso Soriano swung at the first pitch of the game from Houston's Matt Albers and popped up.
"If you want selective, patient hitters, you sign that type of player over the winter and now you've got it," Piniella said. "You're not going to change what hitters do during the course of the year at the end of the season just because it makes sense. We go with what we've got and what we've done, and do the best we can with it.
"If you want the other type of approach, then that's the type of player you have to pencil in on your club over the winter," he said.
It's a little early to be talking about offseason acquisitions.
"What we want truthfully is results," Piniella said. "You look for approaches in Spring Training, you look for approaches in April and May. Now what counts is results. What you want is results at this time of the year."
Jacque Jones was moved up to second in the lineup on Wednesday, while Ryan Theriot dropped to eighth. More on Theriot later.
"[Jones] has been getting some hits," Piniella said. "Don't read too many things into what we're doing. If we're good enough, we're going to win, and if not, we won't."
Sleepless in Houston: It was tough for many of the Cubs to go to sleep after Tuesday's loss to the Astros.
"You go home and the next thing you know, it's four in the morning," Cubs catcher Jason Kendall said. "I can't tell you how many times my wife has caught me waking up at two in the morning saying, 'Swing the bat' or '2-0 pitch.' I'll be talking in my sleep. The offseason is good, not only physically, but mentally."
And this kind of behavior is normal, Kendall said.
"Any baseball player who cares about their career and takes pride in what they do, and wants to be a perfectionist, that's normal," he said. "It's done. That's the good thing about baseball is that there's always the next day."
Which is encouraging for Ryan Dempster, who served up the Astros' game-winning hit Tuesday.
"The one thing you forget is those guys are Major League players, too," Kendall said of the Astros. "The guy put a good swing on it, and it got into the gap. You want to let it go and you have to let it go."
But it's September, and everything is magnified. Dempster wasn't the only one upset after the game.
"I had a 3-1 pitch last night in the third inning that I should've swung at and I didn't," Kendall said. "The ball that got by me in the second inning, I should've gotten it. Little things throughout the game, you think about them. You wouldn't be here if you didn't take pride in what you do and if you didn't care. Those are the things that a lot of people don't understand."
Rotate: The Cubs have mapped out the rotation for the remaining 18 games, but it doesn't appear that Steve Trachsel is included. Trachsel will start Thursday in the series finale against the Astros, but the Cubs will be using Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly on short rest for the Sept. 17-19 series against Cincinnati.
Zambrano will start the weekend series against St. Louis on Friday, with Lilly and Sean Marshall starting in Saturday's doubleheader. Jason Marquis will go Sunday.
Rich Hill will open the series against the Reds at Wrigley, followed by Zambrano and Lilly. Marquis will start Sept. 21 vs. Pittsburgh, followed by Hill and Zambrano in the regular season finale at home.
"The last three games [in Cincinnati], if they're important to us, we'll pitch Zambrano, Hill and Lilly," Piniella said.
Busman's holiday: Theriot was expected to get Wednesday off, but when the Astros changed their rotation and started right-hander Matt Albers, the shortstop was back in the lineup.
He's 8-for-42 (.190) in his last 11 games, and has been hitting the ball well. They just aren't dropping.
"I feel good, I really do, and I'm ready to go," Theriot said. "Normally, when I get tired mentally, it would affect me defensively. It might not affect my play, but I'd wander a little bit. I've been up there defensively on each pitch and each play, and I haven't felt tired on that side of the ball. I know I'm ready to go."
He still has competitive at-bats.
"Things just aren't going my way," he said. "You really don't want to approach anything differently at this point, and you want to keep things as normal as possible. When you try to change things, that's when you see the play start to suffer.
"I can't speak for anybody else, but that's the one thing I've tried to do is stay consistent with everything," he said. "Keep my preparation the same, keep my batting practice the same, and hopefully everything will stay the same."
Left-handed compliment: Hill entered Wednesday's game with the seventh-best ERA in the National League among qualifying left-handed pitchers, but has eight wins, five less than all of the closest leaders. He's also received the lowest run support in the Major Leagues at 3.24 runs per game. The Cubs have scored 11 runs in his eight losses this year.
Roster move: The Cubs announced Wednesday they have received right-handed reliever Marcos Mateo from Cincinnati to complete the earlier deal for outfielder Buck Coats. Mateo was 2-4 with six saves and a 3.50 ERA in 41 games for Class A Dayton this year, striking out 63 over 72 innings.
The only deal still to be completed from this season is the Cesar Izturis trade. The shortstop was sent to Pittsburgh for a player to be named, and that player has yet to be named.
On deck: Trachsel will close this series in Houston on Thursday when the Cubs face Astros veteran Woody Williams at Minute Maid Park. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT and the game will be broadcast on Comcast Sports Net.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.