<
>

Cubs show progress even in defeat

PHILADELPHIA -- While the Chicago Cubs' roster reconstruction will still take more time, the club does seem to be making progress in some areas.

Take Monday’s late-inning comeback that ultimately got away when the Phillies broke an eighth-inning tie with two runs. Two weeks ago the Cubs weren’t capable of coming back to life, much using a home run to help do it.

Bryan LaHair tied it with a two-run shot, but only because the pitching staff reversed fortune after a rough first inning.

Cubs starter Chris Volstad let some early first-inning bad luck get him into trouble. The bunt single and the infield hit were one thing, but the two-out, two run-single from Carlos Ruiz and the two-out run-scoring hit from No. 8 hitter Pete Orr were another.

“Two-out base hits killed me again,” Volstad said. “I just tried to realize that an infield hit, you threw a good pitch, the base-hit bunt was a perfect spot and not a whole lot you can do. You have to keep throwing. The slider to Orr was probably the worst pitch of the inning to give them that fourth run."

Volstad managed to turn it on after the first, though. He followed with five scoreless innings to keep the Cubs at least somewhat in the game.

Then came something of an offense explosion from a normally offensively challenged Cubs team. A rare Alfonso Soriano extra-base hit was part of a run in the seventh inning, while a Starlin Castro RBI single and LaHair’s home run tied it in the eighth.

“Volstad pitched his [tail] off really for the whole game” manager Dale Sveum said. “The first inning was unfortunate. A perfect placed bunt, a squibber and then another seeing-eye base hit. He had some tough breaks but basically threw the ball unbelievable tonight.”

The comeback was just as impressive as Volstad’s turnaround. If the Cubs can continue to get the kind of starting pitching they received in April and get a little bit of offense to go with it, then perhaps some win streaks are on the horizon.

“You can see what kind of team we are,” LaHair said. “We fight to the end and there’s no give-up in us. We’re just going to continue to battle, have good at-bats and win ballgames late if we have to.

“We’re playing hard. That’s the kind of team we are now. Hopefully it turns around and we keep winning. We split the series, we didn’t lose the series so that’s a positive.”

Make that two consecutive series the Cubs haven’t lost. It isn’t the Moral Victory League, but it’s at least a step in the right direction.