What's the difference?
"I'm just finding some holes now," Pierre said. "I'm laying off some pitches that allow me to get in good hitting counts. I've kept the same approach, but I'm hitting them where they ain't."
The Cubs head into the break riding a three-game winning streak.
"We've had stretches like this and regressed," Pierre said. "Hopefully, we can take this as a positive. Guys get away. You love your teammates, but it's always good to get away from them for a couple days and recharge the battery. I do see things going in a positive direction here."
So does Baker.
"I look at every day with optimism," Baker said. "Every day I'm here and every day I'm alive, I'm optimistic. I'd be more optimistic with a healthy [Mark] Prior."
Prior was a late scratch on Sunday because of a strained left oblique, but Glendon Rusch stepped in and pitched a solid five innings in an 11-4 win.
"We're going into the second half with good momentum," Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "Hopefully, we can continue what we did here."
The Cubs totaled 54 losses at the All-Star break. In 1966, the last time the team lost 100 games in a season, the Cubs were 26-57 at the break. They were 32-56 at the All-Star break on July 10, 1962.
The plan is to start fresh.
"We're going to put [the first half] in the past," Ramirez said. "We didn't play the way we wanted to play. That's in the past."
Scott Eyre expects to see Baker at the helm when the second half starts.
"As players, the only way we have control over whether a manager is here or not is to play," Eyre said. "So, if we keep playing as hard as we can, hopefully, we'll keep winning, and we'll be OK."
Wood update: Baker spent a long time talking to Kerry Wood on Saturday. The right-hander is likely done for the season after an MRI arthrogram on Friday revealed a partial tear in his right rotator cuff.
"I'm sad for Woody. I'm sad for us, too," Baker said. "I know how hard he's worked. He knew something wasn't right."
Wood will consult specialists to decide on which option to take regarding his shoulder. He could go the conservative route and try to rehab, or he could opt for surgery.
Extra bases: Pierre stole his 30th base on Sunday. The last Cub to reach 30 was Corey Patterson, who swiped 32 in 2004. Pierre is three steals away from 300 in his career. ... Ramirez, who had three hits on Sunday, is one shy of reaching 1,000 in his career. ... Carlos Zambrano will represent the Cubs in Tuesday's All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. It's his second All-Star appearance, and the first time the Cubs have had just one representative since Sammy Sosa was the lone Cub in 2002. ... Here's an obscure note, thanks to baseball historian Ed Hartig: The Cubs are 4-0 on days when Italy wins the World Cup (1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006). ... Baker and third-base coach Chris Speier have a unique connection. They are uncles-in-law. Baker's nephew is married to Speier's niece. ... The Cubs Mailbag will resume July 17. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and include your name and hometown. That's "06" as in 2006.
Minor matters: Angel Guzman gave up five runs on six hits over four innings in Iowa's 8-7 win over Omaha on Saturday. Casey McGehee had three hits and three RBIs, and Felix Pie had two hits. Michael Wuertz picked up the win and is 5-0. ... Sean Gallagher threw seven shutout innings in West Tenn's 9-0 win over Chattanooga. Chris Walker had two hits, including a home run, and three RBIs, and Scott Moore had three hits and two RBIs. ... Sam Fuld, Matthew Ciaramella and Jemel Spearman each had two hits, as Daytona beat Vero Beach, 5-4. ... Jesus Yepez gave up three runs on nine hits over five innings in Peoria's 4-3, 13-inning loss to Beloit. Ryan Malone had two hits, including a solo home run. ... First-round pick Tyler Colvin had a hit and one RBI in Boise's 6-5 loss to Yakima.
On deck: Greg Maddux will open the second half of the season, starting on Friday in the first game of a three-game set against the New York Mets. Former Cub Steve Trachsel is slated to start for the Mets. The game will be broadcast on WGN Radio and Comcast Sports Net.