CHICAGO -- The Cubs struggled with to deliver clutch hits last season, and have encountered the same problem in the first six games this year, which has contributed to their 1-5 record.
Entering Thursday's game against the Brewers, the Cubs were hitting .145 with runners on base and .277 with the bases empty. With runners in scoring position, the Cubs were batting .140 (7-for-50). They turned it around in the series finale against Milwaukee, going 7-for-12 with RISP, and posting an 8-0 win.
"Bottom line is, we've gotten some people on, and once again, we're struggling with men in scoring position," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Our right-handed hitters are struggling right now in those situations. We have to get better at that or otherwise, it'll be tough to score runs. Right on right, we have to get a better understanding of the process of how they're getting us out and how they're attacking us, and we have to take advantage of that."
Sveum made one switch in Thursday's lineup, giving Marlon Byrd a day off. Byrd is 1-for-21 so far, and the only hit came in his second at-bat of the season. Reed Johnson started in center field on Thursday.
"I'm giving him a day, a little breather and hopefully get him on track," Sveum said. "He'll be back in there [Friday]."
Byrd has some adjustments to make with his swing.
"It's real rotational and he has to get more linear in his swing to be able to handle pitches away," Sveum said. "It's all rotation now where the bat comes in and out of the strike zone too quick."
Cubs to be observers at Cards' ceremony
CHICAGO -- On Friday, the Cardinals will play their home opener and celebrate the 2011 World Series championship. And the Cubs can only watch.
"You give anybody respect for winning the World Series," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Thursday, on the eve of the three-game series against their division rivals. "There's got to be one team every year that wins it and gets the rings and raises the banner. You give everybody the respect they deserve.
"They're the best in the world right now, they're the best team in baseball. They're the world champions. You're going to be out there, you're going to have to watch [the ceremony] but, hey, you want other people watching you do it someday, too. It's a fun day, no question about it. I've been able to do it twice [2004 Red Sox, 1998 Yankees] and it's very, very fun."
St. Louis is currently leading the National League Central, and leads the Majors with a dozen home runs so far.
"They have  home runs through seven games," Sveum said. "You hit  home runs, you're going to win some ballgames. ... It'll be a tough lineup to get through without giving up many runs."
McKay to get championship ring as rival
CHICAGO -- For 16 seasons, Dave McKay wore Cardinal red as the first base coach for Tony La Russa. He has won two World Championships with St. Louis, but on Friday, McKay returns to the city wearing Cubs blue.
McKay is now on Dale Sveum's coaching staff and players have raved about his expertise and coaching. Friday will be the Cardinals' home opener and they will raise a banner celebrating the 2011 World Series win. On Saturday, the players will be presented with their rings.
It will be weird for McKay, 62, to not be wearing red.
"Most people say, 'Oh, it's just another game,' but it isn't," McKay said. "It's the Cardinals and the Cubs and I'm with the Cubs now. I'm looking forward to it. I hope we put on a good show. I gave them everything I had for 16 years, but that's baseball. Now I'm with the Cubs, and I'm going to give them everything I got."
McKay will take part in the ring ceremony. La Russa made a point of inviting him.
"You'll see a lot of red and one blue," McKay said of the players on the field.
He's eager to win a ring with the Cubs.
"I hope we can do some good things over here now," he said.
Johnson welcomes addition to family roster
CHICAGO -- Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson didn't get much sleep Tuesday night. When he got home after the night game, his wife, Taryn, was having contractions 10 minutes apart. At 2 a.m. Wednesday, they went to the hospital and five hours later, they welcomed the arrival of Jordan Elizabeth. It's their second child; she joins big brother Tyce.
"I was glad I was in town for it," Johnson said Thursday, still a little bleary eyed from lack of sleep. "Tyce loves her. He's like, 'Not real? Pretend?' He thought she was a doll."
Johnson was awake enough to start Thursday in center field in the Cubs series finale against the Brewers.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.