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Woes continue for Cubs' young lineup

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs' offensive struggles continued Sunday as the team’s post trade deadline blues continue to linger.

Since July 31, the day all non-waiver trades had to be completed, the Cubs have won just once in 12 games, and despite the fact that two pitchers were dealt that day it’s been the hitting that has caused the most problems.

The Cubs’ 3-0 defeat on Sunday was the 11th time they have been shut out this season and shockingly the fourth time it has happened since July 31. They had just four hits in 30 at-bats Sunday, dropping their NL-worst batting average in August to .199.

“We’re right back in the same rut we were in the beginning in the first couple of months where we just can’t get anything going,” manager Dale Sveum said. “We had one home run, (Alfonso) Soriano's home run (Thursday) was the only home run we hit this series.

“It’s tough to get things going especially today off (Johnny) Cueto, one of the best starters in the game. We’re not getting a whole lot going and unfortunately the days we did score six and eight runs we came up short in those games on the pitching side of it.”

Sunday’s shutout could have been expected with Cueto on the mound. Third in the NL in ERA when the game started, Cueto lowered his season mark to 2.45 after eight shutout innings.

But with the Cubs using rookie left-hander Brooks Raley to start the game and asking the bullpen to cover three innings, giving up just three runs against a solid right-handed lineup was about as much as could been asked.

The Cubs also got a strong start from Travis Wood on Saturday only for the bullpen to cough up a slim lead.

“That’s what we have right now and we’ve been getting some good starts out of (Justin) Germano and obviously Wood and (Chris) Volstad,” Sveum said. “You can say what you want but our starters have actually done a pretty good job since the trade deadline. We’ve just stopped hitting.”

Soriano, who provided a spark when the team came to life in late June, went just 2-for-16 in the series, although his home run Thursday was the difference in the Cubs’ victory. The toughest job Soriano has dealt with all season was being a mentor for a young lineup.

“They are here for one reason, to have experience, and I think they know (what to do),” Soriano said. “They have to learn game by game and pitch by pitch and that is the most important. They are hard working and when you work hard you can get better. Those guys are very young, they like to work and they have the talent so they will get better.”

There isn’t much lineup tinkering Sveum can do to try and light a spark. He will start to use rookie Josh Vitters a little more at third base, bout outside of that nothing is expected to change drastically.

“We have to give a lot of credit to Cincinnati,” Soriano said. “They have very good pitching and that is the main reason they are in first place. I think we have a very good young talented team and they will be here for almost two months and they will get experience for their career and I hope they do well.”