Bottom's up: Lower lineup must produce

Cubs' lower lineup must produce

CHICAGO -- The Cubs need the bottom of the order to pick the team up.

With Aramis Ramirez out until the first week of July, somebody has to pick up the slack. Lou Piniella doesn't think all the pressure should be put on the middle of the order.

"Last year, one of the reasons our team was so successful was we probably got as much, or more, production out of our sixth, seventh and eighth hitters as anybody in baseball," Piniella said. "That hasn't been the case this year. The injury to Ramirez makes us a little more vulnerable at the end."

That'll give FOX TV broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver plenty to talk about Saturday in Game 3 of the Cubs' four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. They can show highlights from Thursday's game, when the Cubs had the bases loaded with one out in the ninth but the Nos. 7 and 8 hitters, Bobby Scales and Jake Fox, both struck out to end the game. On Friday, Derrek Lee and Micah Hoffpauir were both on base in the second, and the Dodgers' Chad Billingsley retired the next three -- Nos. 6, 7 and 8 on the lineup card.

The Cubs did see some promise Friday, however, when Koyie Hill, who was batting seventh, hit a game-tying home run in the seventh inning that led to a 2-1 win over the Dodgers.

It's obvious teams count on the middle of the order. Lee has picked up the pace in the last week, and Milton Bradley has hit in 14 of his last 18 games. Kosuke Fukudome has been the one consistent hitter. Piniella is looking for more.

"If you just depend on one, two or three hitters to hit, you're going to struggle," Piniella said. "You need contributions. Obviously, you'll get more contributions from certain people, but everybody has got to contribute. And when we've won baseball games this year, we've done just that. When we haven't, it's been more of a struggle."

Geovany Soto was one of the key bats in the bottom of the order last season en route to winning the National League Rookie of the Year. He's off to a slow start, batting .218.

"It's a team," Piniella said. "We can all make excuses for everything. I'm not into excuse -making. You put out a Major League lineup out there. Yeah, your big people are supposed to do some carrying."

One player who could contribute if Piniella could find a place to put him is Jake Fox, who was leading the Pacific Coast League in the Triple Crown categories of batting average, home runs and RBIs when he was called up.

"The problem with Fox is where do I put him?" Piniella said. "I would love to get him in the lineup, the kid can swing the bat, I recognize that. Let's just see what plays itself out."

Pitching matchup
CHC: RHP Ryan Dempster (3-3, 4.99 ERA)
Dempster had trouble with his command in his last start against the Pirates and gave up six runs on seven hits and three walks over four innings. It was his shortest outing of the season, and first time he did not go at least six innings. The runs also were a season high. This will be Dempster's first game against the Dodgers since Game 1 of the National League Division Series, when he walked seven over 4 2/3 innings. The Dodgers had a patient approach against Dempster. It will be interesting to see if they take that same approach this time.

LAD: LHP Eric Stults (4-1, 4.29 ERA)
Stults, making his first start since suffering a jammed thumb on May 15 against the Marlins, was unable to pitch past the fifth inning his last time out and did not get a decision. Stults had difficulty with his command as he walked seven in 4 1/3 innings against the Rockies. In one previous start at Wrigley Field in 2007, Stults went 4 1/3 innings and gave up four runs, three earned, and eight hits in taking the loss.

Tidbits
The Cubs rotation for the upcoming series in Atlanta will be Randy Wells on Tuesday, Ted Lilly on Wednesday and Carlos Zambrano on Thursday. It will be Zambrano's first start after serving a six-game suspension. ... Rich Harden was encouraged by his throwing sessions, but does not know when he will be able to throw off the mound. He's rehabbing from a mid-back strain. ... Esmailin Caridad gave up four runs, three earned, on seven hits over six innings in Triple-A Iowa's 9-1 loss to Sacramento on Thursday. ... Casey Coleman gave up three runs on seven hits over seven innings in Double-A Tennessee's 3-1 loss to Huntsville in the first game of a doubleheader. Huntsville won the second game, 11-5, as Jesse Estrada gave up five runs on seven hits over four innings. ... James Leverton gave up three runs, two earned, on two hits over 4 2/3 innings in Class A Daytona's 3-2 loss to Palm Beach. Tyler Colvin had two hits and two RBIs. ... Marcus Hatley gave up five runs, four earned, on nine hits over six innings in Class A Peoria's 8-3 loss to Clinton. Josh Vitters had a hit to extend his hitting streak to seven games.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FOX

On radio
• WGN 720

Up next
• Sunday: Cubs (Sean Marshall, 3-3, 3.70) vs. Dodgers (Eric Milton, 1-0, 3.00), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Cubs (Randy Wells, 0-2, 1.80) at Braves (Kenshin Kawakami, 3-6, 4.73), 6:00 p.m. CT

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.