ST. LOUIS The Cubs are nearing the quarter mark. Their Opening Day starter doesnt have a win yet. The only established power hitter still hasnt homered.
That doesnt tell the entire story. But the Cubs are hanging around and havent been buried by a brutal early schedule. If you are relentlessly optimistic, like Ryan Dempster and Alfonso Soriano, you believe it all balances out and things will turn around.
The Cubs were pumping the music in the clubhouse after Mondays 6-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in front of a sellout crowd at Busch Stadium.
Baby steps, Dempster said. We got a win when I started a game.
Theres no chance Dempster (1.74 ERA) would ever complain publicly about the lack of run support. But heres what the Cubs put on the scoreboard in his first five starts this season: one; three; two; one; one. Thats pretty much going to be the trend line with this lineup.
Thats why manager Dale Sveum wont move Soriano down, because theres really no one else to take his place in the middle of the order right now. Soriano came through in the eighth inning with a two-out single to left, which marked his sixth go-ahead RBI this season.
Im happy with what I do for the team, Soriano said. Im not hitting with the power, but I think (part of its) the knee. When the team needs a big hit, Im there. I know that my power is coming sooner or later.
Soriano sat at his locker with his left knee all wrapped up.
One day its good, one day its bad, Soriano said. Like I joke with my teammates, Im a warrior. I want to play every day no matter what.
Im not 25 anymore. I have to play through the pain.
Dempster just turned 35, but hasnt shown his age. By the sixth inning, he had allowed four runs all season and had a four-run lead he immediately gave away.
The Cardinals (20-15) responded with four runs, and thats the way its gone for the staffs leader. Hes now winless in his last 15 starts dating back to Aug. 16 of last season.
I feel bad for him, because hes been so good for the team and hes not getting the win, Soriano said. I hope the next time we score a lot of runs and we can get (it) for him. But hes pitched so good so far.
The Cubs have now won four of seven games against the defending World Series champs.
This is a weakened National League Central. The Cubs, Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers are tied for last place at 15-20. The Cincinnati Reds are the only other team in the division above .500.
We got as good a shot as anybody else, pitcher Matt Garza said. Were (five) back in the division and we played like crap the first three weeks of the season. Were putting it together. Youre going to go through growing pains with youth, and we certainly are.
(Theres) going to be a lot of mistakes, a lot of growing pains, but I think were good enough and mentally strong enough to get through it.
The Cubs have a new dimension on offense with Tony Campana, who stole another base and scored two more runs. Bryan LaHair sent his ninth home run soaring, a two-run shot that traveled 356 feet, just inside the right-field foul pole.
After reaching a breaking point with Carlos Marmol whose meltdown on May 3 in Cincinnati ruined a brilliant Dempster start and cost him the closers job the Cubs have stabilized the ninth inning.
Rafael Dolis threw nine pitches, eight for strikes, and picked up his fourth save, making it all look stress-free.
If you are a Cubs fan, you have to wonder where they could be if they had really capitalized on their lights-out starting pitching, and what might happen if it regresses just a little bit. Dempster never thinks that way.
Were pitching really well, Dempster said. Were playing good defense and were running the bases extremely aggressive and were getting the results because of it. Hopefully, those just keep coming and we keep playing good baseball and climb our way back to .500.