5/23/2013 7:30 P.M. ET
Cubs starters solid, but offense can't get key hits
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- The Cubs are wasting good starting pitching and manager Dale Sveum said he may abandon his lineup platoon against left-handed starters to try and shake things up.
Chicago starters have posted 28 quality starts in 46 games this season and had a 1.98 ERA in those games, yet those pitchers had won only 11 of those contests. The team has won 16.
Only three National League teams have more quality starts than the Cubs -- the Phillies (32), the Cardinals (30) and the Nationals (29). The Cardinals starters have 20 wins in their quality starts, the Nationals 16 and the Phillies 13.
"It's mind-boggling," Sveum said Thursday. "Some of the stats we have are really strange. To have this good starting pitching and be nine games under .500 and have a run differential of [only minus] five -- there are certain things you can't explain other than just not being able to put games away.
"Hitting with men in scoring position, getting that run in, getting that big inning here or there, we're just snake bit on that and not getting that stuff done," Sveum said.
The Cubs, entering Thursday, were batting .214 with runners in scoring position, lowest in the NL. Only the Mariners had a worse mark (.206). In Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Pirates, they were 2-for-6 with men in scoring position.
"It's just understanding that the pitcher is on the ropes, not you, and I think that's our biggest problem in those situations," Sveum said. "We're letting [the pitchers] dictate the at-bat and we're not dictating those at-bats."
Sveum has been platooning batters, and sitting left-handed hitters David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz against lefty starters, but said Thursday he may change the lineup. The Cubs don't have another right-handed outfielder in the Minors to sub, either.
"We talk about hundreds of things when things aren't going well," Sveum said of his options. "The fact of the matter is we're pitching well -- we've had a few hiccups in the bullpen -- and we're catching the ball and hitting, but not scoring runs."
Mounting losses gnawing at Soriano
PITTSBURGH -- If Cubs fans think it's tough to deal with the team's losses, it's even harder on the players. On Thursday, Alfonso Soriano was still bothered by Tuesday's 5-4 loss to the Pirates.
"You think we're going to win that game 3-0, and in five minutes, [we're down] 5-3," Soriano said Thursday. "I went to sleep at like 6 o'clock in the morning, just thinking about that game. There's nothing you can do about it. [Wednesday], we didn't do anything to win that game. [The Pirates' Francisco Liriano] is good, and he pitched a very good game. But I'm tired of losing, frustrated.
"Sometimes, you just think too much," Soriano continued. "I get frustrated when you see that happen, because I'm tired of losing. I don't want to be on a losing team and have a bad record."
The frustrating part, Soriano said, is losing games in which they have a lead and shouldn't lose.
"That gets in my head and makes me upset," he said.
How do the Cubs turn it around?
"One day at a time, today's another day, and do the best I can to win today and I'll be fine," Soriano said. "I'm happy when we win. When we lose, no matter how we lose, I'll be [ticked off].
"I understand we won't win 162 games, but we have a good team and are good enough to have a better record than we have now," he said. "That's what makes me frustrated. What I see with the starting rotation, it's amazing. The players we have, the eight players in the field, we're good enough to put it together and have a better record than we have now. That makes me frustrated sometimes."
Cubs struggling against left-handed pitchers
PITTSBURGH -- Entering Thursday, the Cubs had a .232 batting average against left-handed pitchers, and they are 4-10 when a southpaw starts against them. They can watch video, but there is only one left-handed batting practice option in bullpen coach Lester Strode.
In Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Pirates, the Cubs faced one lefty, Justin Wilson, and had one hit off him in 1 2/3 innings -- Ryan Sweeney's pinch-hit RBI single.
Manager Dale Sveum says most hitters don't like to face a lefty in batting practice.
"Hitters like to feel good in [batting practice]," Sveum said, adding some hitters are finicky to the point that they only want to work with the same pitcher.
"Some guys like [to face lefties], some guys don't like it, and a lot of times, it's the latter," Sveum said. "A lot of guys don't like hitting off left-handers in batting practice because it's more of a feel thing."
Cubs, affiliates to raise money for tornado victims
PITTSBURGH -- Double-A Tennessee will join outfielder Ty Wright in his efforts to raise funds for the tornado victims in Oklahoma. The Smokies will hold several events throughout the current homestand with proceeds going to the American Red Cross relief efforts.
"After watching the coverage of the tornado, it was tragic to see," Wright said. "I played baseball for Oklahoma State for four years and Oklahoma is like a second home to me."
The Smokies will donate $10 for every hit they collect during their current five-game series. On Saturday, the Smokies will hold a memorabilia auction on the concourse, featuring signed memorabilia from the team, the Cubs, and other Minor and Major League teams with 100 percent of those proceeds going to disaster relief and the Red Cross. Former Smokies Darwin Barney, Andrew Cashner and Tyler Colvin have all pledged to donate items to the auction.
The Smokies will present the American Red Cross a check, on Wright's behalf, prior to Monday's game.
Cubs outfielder David DeJesus announced a "mystery ball" event on Wednesday at Wrigley Field to raise money for victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes. Tickets are $40 per ball, and all proceeds will go to the families affected by the deadly storm. The Cubs play host to the White Sox in an Interleague game that day.
Triple-A Iowa also is chipping in. The Iowa Cubs front office and a group of the players' wives and girlfriends will hold a memorabilia auction on Friday during the game against the Oklahoma City RedHawks, and all proceeds will be donated to the Oklahoma City Red Cross. Fans will have a chance to bid on autographed jerseys, baseballs, bats, and various other equipment in the concourse at Principal Park in Des Moines. The silent auction will start when the gates open at 5:35 p.m. CT, and run into the middle of Friday's game.
• Albert Almora, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, went 3-for-4 with a double and RBI in his first game on Wednesday, but it wasn't enough as Class A Kane County lost, 9-2, to Peoria. Almora was slowed after breaking a hamate bone in his left hand in Spring Training.
• The Cubs opened a new training academy in the Dominican Republic and Soriano said he can't wait to see it. Soriano trained at the old facilities near Boca Chica. The new site is near Santo Domingo.
"That's huge for the young guys there to build that facility in the Dominican," Soriano said. "The kids need to know how much it cost to build that facility and know they have to give something back to the Cubs. They have a good facility to workout and get better, but as soon as you get to the big leagues, you have to work hard. You've got to give back."
The facility will not only have baseball fields but provide housing and have an education center for the players.
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.