Soriano, Cubs looking to get hot at plate

Soriano, Cubs looking to get hot at plate

HOUSTON -- In an at-bat in the third inning Thursday, Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano fouled a ball off his left knee.

"That's how bad my swing is -- I hit one off my knee," Soriano said after Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Astros. "When I hit a foul ball off my knee, my swing is not good."

No, it's not. After batting .284 in April, the Cubs' leadoff man struggled to hit .216 in May, and was batting .184 in eight games in June.

The Cubs need him to get things started. Soriano said he doesn't sense a change in approach by opposing pitchers, but apparently he's not making the adjustments at the plate.

"It's the same -- they're pitching me the same," he said. "Sometimes I swing at bad pitches. Most of the time, they throw too close to the zone and I miss. It's just me. I'm working, and sooner or later I'm going to be fine."

How long can the Cubs wait? Soriano isn't the only one. This month, Milton Bradley is 2-for-14, Ryan Theriot is hitting .239 and Kosuke Fukudome .172. The team is batting .248 following Thursday's 13-inning loss to the Houston Astros.

"What are you going to do?" Theriot said. "You can't just give up. You have to continue to work hard and try to figure out what it is that's causing it and try to correct it.

"We still see the same guys down in the cage working, doing the same drills," he said. "I don't think there's been much change in preparation or work. If anything, it's increased. I don't know. I guess I'm kind of like Lou [Piniella]. I don't have an answer right now. I wish I did."

The Cubs went 4-4 on their just-completed road trip, yet head home feeling as if they'd lost all eight games.

"Nobody's happy," Ryan Dempster said. "We feel we could've done better."

Soriano hinted that the last three games in Houston when they looked so lackluster and stranded 31 might have been because the team was road weary.

"There were a lot of night games, extra innings, and I think everybody got tired on the road, they miss their families," he said. "[Friday] is a new homestand and we'll play better at home."

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