05/15/12 12:34 AM ET
Cubs have different look than last visit to Busch
By Steve Overbey / Special to MLB.com
Chicago came out of its initial trip to St. Louis on April 15 with a 3-7 record, on the way to a dismal 3-11 start.
Fast-forward to a 6-4 victory on Monday.
The Cubs have won 12 of their last 21 contests. That includes taking two of three games against the Redbirds in late April.
"We're excited to be moving forward in the right direction," first baseman Bryan LaHair said. "Things have been a lot better, and we're hoping they can stay that way."
Chicago dropped two of three in the April series at Busch Stadium and limped out of town in last place. But manager Dale Sveum preferred to dwell on the early-season positives.
"We were putting ourselves in position to win ballgames every single day," he said.
The Cubs have stayed the course and sit five games behind first-place St. Louis heading finale of the brief two-game set.
Slugger LaHair keeps hammering away
ST. LOUIS -- Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair tries to avoid looking at his impressive offensive numbers.
Instead, LaHair, one of the early-season surprises in the National League, prefers to concentrate on the Cubs' win column. He helped the Cubs notch another victory with a 3-for-4 performance, including a two-run blast, in Chicago's 6-4 victory at Busch Stadium on Monday.
"Right now, I'm just focusing on winning games, not what I am hitting and how I am doing," he said. "Whenever a player focuses in just on winning, that is usually when he usual does well as an individual too."
LaHair finished the game against the Cardinals hitting .356. He has reached safely in a team-high 31 successive games, which is the longest such streak by a Cubs first baseman since Phil Cavarretta reached base safely in 32 straight games in his Most Valuable Player season of 1945.
LaHair, who entered the season with a .263 average in 195 big league at-bats, has a team-high nine home runs and is second with 20 RBIs. He homered in five of eight games from April 24-May 3. Six of his round-trippers have either tied the game or given the Cubs the lead.
LaHair has hit four of his home runs against the world-champion Cardinals.
"I've been trying to slow things down and hit some balls hard," he said.
Manager Dale Sveum has been extremely pleased with LaHair so far.
"He's had a great first six weeks," he said. "He's been everything we've hoped he would and then some. We really needed some offense out of somebody. It's been great to see."
Sveum said LaHair is capable of continuing his roll even as teams around the league start to notice his hot start.
"Hopefully, it just continues and he adjusts to everything that's going to happen," Sveum said. "When you start having that success, people start adjusting to you and you've got to adjust too."
LaHair is a low-key person -- yet he carries around a quiet confidence.
"I've always had success," he said. "I know it hasn't always been at the big league level, but I did the best I could until the opportunity came around. I'm a big believer in playing the cards you are dealt. For a long time, my cards were Triple-A and the Minor Leagues.
"Now, I'm playing some big league cards and I'm trying to play them well."
Mather thrilled to be playing for Cubs
ST. LOUIS -- Former Cardinals utilityman Joe Mather is having fun with the Cubs.
Mather, who was selected by the Cardinals in the third round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, spent parts of 10 years in the organization before he was selected off waivers by the Braves after the 2010 season. He began Monday hitting .263 with two home runs and six RBIs, and he had appeared in 20 games, starting eight. That included a walk-off single against the Cardinals on April 23 at Wrigley Field.
"They've given me a real good opportunity here," Mather said. "I can't complain."
Mather began the 2010 season on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster but was optioned to Triple-A Memphis seven weeks into the season. He spent the final two weeks of the regular campaign with St. Louis. Atlanta claimed him that November, then let him go last June.
Chicago signed Mather to a Minor League deal in December. His can play a variety of infield and outfield positions, and that endeared him to the organization.
"They run me out there every few days and that's all that I can ask for," he said. "They've treated me well."
Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster made career start No. 300 on Monday at Busch Stadium.
Chicago and St. Louis are meeting for the seventh and eighth times this season in the 35th of 36 games of the year for each squad. The Cubs have not faced National League Central foes Pittsburgh and Houston yet.
Sveum, a hockey fan who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., was not pleased with Coyotes' effort in a 4-2 loss to Los Angeles in the first game of the Western Conference final series on Sunday.
Sveum arrived in St. Louis from Milwaukee in time to see most of the contest on TV.
"It wasn't fun to watch," he said. "It didn't seem like the Coyotes had a shot on goal in the last two periods."
The Cubs broke a 10-game losing streak in Milwaukee on Sunday.
"That's a big monkey off our back," first baseman Bryan LaHair said.
Chicago lost 13 straight in St. Louis from Oct. 3, 1999 to June 19, 2001.
Steve Overbey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.