"They've done well," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella, whose team plays the White Sox in a three-game series beginning Friday at U.S. Cellular Field. "Obviously, we're going to have to pick up our game."
Asked if all it takes is a little spark, Piniella said, "No question. You get yourselves a nice little win streak, get a little more consistent, then you can turn things around quickly."
Finding that spark has been elusive. The club is hoping that the return of third baseman Aramis Ramirez (left thumb contusion) from the DL could be the ignition.
"That would give us a big lift," Piniella said.
During this winning stretch for the White Sox, their only loss was to the Cubs, on June 13, when Ted Lilly and Gavin Floyd threatened with dueling no-hitters. Lilly lost his bid on a pinch-hit single by Juan Pierre to open the ninth in a 1-0 victory.
Lilly would have started again against the White Sox on Friday, but Carlos Silva's start was moved back because of a tender hamstring. Lilly started Thursday while Silva is now scheduled to start Saturday.
After Wednesday's 8-1 loss to the Mariners, Piniella and his coaching staff stayed behind in the clubhouse to talk about possible solutions. The Cubs' offense has been stagnant all week, with two shutouts and one one-run game.
Piniella fiddled with his lineup Thursday, giving Starlin Castro a rest, while starting Mike Fontenot at shortstop. Kosuke Fukudome was the leadoff hitter, as Piniella used five left-hand bats against Mariners right-handed starter Felix Hernandez.
With a dormant offensive attack, Piniella was asked if the pitching might feel the pressure of having to shut out the opposition.
"I think everybody does their own thing. I think basically you can see at times we have given up some home run balls late in the ballgame in close games," Piniella said. "But you go out and do your job the best you can, whether it's pitching, hitting, whatever. I wouldn't advocate putting
any undue pressure on yourself. Just do what you can do.
"I don't think [the pitchers] think that way. I don't think you can anticipate when you go out there what day you are going to get runs. You have to go and pitch a ballgame. You have the scouting reports. You have to go out and execute your pitches, the same way hitters have to execute their at-bats."
Right-hander Randy Wells, who gave up six runs over six innings in Wednesday's loss, said, "Lou is doing what he can.
"It's sounds selfish, but I don't stick my nose in the offense's business. I have enough troubles with what I have to do. I'm not pulling my weight."
Carlos Zambrano (3-5) opens the White Sox series against Jake Peavy (6-5).