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Houston at Chicago

Astros at Cubs, ppd.

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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CHICAGO -- When the Chicago Cubs hired manager Lou Piniella in the offseason and went on a $300 million spending spree that landed prized free agent Alfonso Soriano, they were hoping their fortunes would change.

So far, it's been more of the same.

At 3-5, the Cubs are in a familiar spot -- below .500 -- and they have a few days to fix what's wrong after Wednesday's game against the Houston Astros was postponed because of rain. It was rescheduled for July 12.

"It's not bad to have one off day to organize yourself a little bit and acclimate yourself, relax a little bit," said Piniella, whose team is off Thursday. "Two -- there's nothing you can do about it, especially when you're smarting from a couple losses."

A mix of rain and snow fell in the morning, and by noon, the field was white. With the game called off, both teams juggled their starting rotations.

The Cubs moved Rich Hill's start to Saturday against Cincinnati, with Carlos Zambrano pitching Friday and Ted Lilly going Sunday. Jason Marquis is to start Monday against San Diego and Wade Miller on Tuesday.

The Astros will skip Wandy Rodriguez's turn and go with Roy Oswalt Friday at Philadelphia, with Jason Jennings and Woody Williams pitching Saturday and Sunday. Rodriguez is scheduled to pitch Monday against Florida.

"It looks awful," Astros manager Phil Garner said. "So even if it were to break, the conditions would be miserable. The field would probably be soggy and bad. So this is probably a good call."

It hasn't been a great start for either team.

Like the Cubs, the Astros are 3-5, and they've already switched closers, with Dan Wheeler replacing Brad Lidge at least for now. That move came before Monday's game against the Cubs, after Lidge allowed five runs the previous day against St. Louis.

"The good part about that is that if pride is used properly, it's a great motivator as well," Garner said. "I think Brad will be where he's supposed to be. And I'm betting that it's going to be sooner rather than later. The task that I have is I have to get him in games. I've got to pitch him consistently here."

Piniella thinks that something similar will happen with Soriano, that sooner or later he'll start playing up to his $136 million deal. Derrek Lee is batting .424 and Aramis Ramirez is at .406, but the top two spots aren't setting things up for the middle of the order.

Soriano is batting .200. And there hasn't been much production from Jacque Jones, Matt Murton, Cesar Izturis or Ryan Theriot in the No. 2 spot.

Is Soriano pressing?

"I don't think so," Piniella said. "I could be wrong. What we really need to get our offense going is for our first two hitters to get on because we've been hitting the ball three, four, five. He's a professional kid. I think he's just gotten off to a slow start. He's going to get hot, believe me."

Soriano and Jones give the Cubs power at the top of the lineup, but they're both known to strike out. Soriano did it 160 times with Washington last season. Jones, who is batting .233, has just one strikeout after finishing with 116 a year ago.

"We probably strike out a little bit more than people would like, but who has an ideal one and two hitter?" he wondered.

With the right-handed Lee batting third, Piniella sees the No. 2 spot as a natural spot for the lefty Jones on days when Cliff Floyd is playing left field and batting fifth.

"That's a nice spot for a left-hand hitter to hit in," Piniella said. "They bring in a left-hander to face Jones, they're not going to keep him in to face Lee or Ramirez. If we have to make adjustments, we will."

 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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