MLB Insiders - Chicago Cubs

The Pirates open a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs on Friday at Wrigley Field. Right-hander Jeff Karstens makes his debut for the Bucs. The Cubs counter with right-hander Jason Marquis.

The Cubs look for their sixth consecutive victory as they try to continue their dominance of the Pirates as the division rivals open a three-game series Friday at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs have had better results when right-hander Jason Marquis (6-6, 4.69 ERA) takes the mound at home. They have won seven of his 10 starts at Wrigley, though he is 3-3 with a 5.81 ERA in those appearances.

In his most recent outing there, Marquis yielded six runs and nine hits in six innings, but finished without a decision as Chicago eventually beat Florida 9-6 on Sunday.

Marquis is 7-5 with a 4.03 ERA in 21 career games against the Pirates, but 2-0 with a 3.12 ERA in three matchups this season.

Right-hander Jeff Karstens came to Pittsburgh in the deal for Nady and Marte and makes his Pirates debut against a Cubs' team that has hit .295 with 14 homers versus Pittsburgh pitching this season.

The right-hander, filling the rotation spot left open after John Van Benschoten was demoted to Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday, went 6-4 with a 3.80 ERA in 12 starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the Yankees' system.

What a difference getting your leadoff hitter back makes, especially if that leadoff hitter is named Alfonso Soriano.

"It's a power threat at the top of the order that can steal bases when he gets on," teammate Reed Johnson said.

Since Soriano came off the DL on July 23 after missing six weeks with a broken left hand, the Cubs have gone 7-2, outscoring their opponents 60-32. Soriano was on base five times Wednesday, and he hit his 18th homer of the season Thursday and his third since returning from the injury.

Soriano said his hand is feeling fine, and perhaps the six weeks off helped his troublesome legs, too.

He looks to be running the bases with abandon, and the stolen base may return to his repertoire down the stretch.

CUBS 11, BREWERS 4: Jim Edmonds hit two home runs, including a fourth-inning grand slam, as the Cubs swept the four-game series in Milwaukee. Rich Harden worked seven innings of six-hit, one-run ball to post his first victory with the Cubs. Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome added homers.

--RHP Kerry Wood threw a simulated game Thursday morning, facing a pair of bullpen catchers. Wood threw 26 pitches, 16 for strikes, as he tries to keep his right arm and shoulder in shape while battling a blister on his right index finger. Wood wore a pad over the finger during the simulated game and said he may try to play catch Friday at Wrigley Field without a pad. There is no timetable set for Wood's return. He has been out since the All-Star break.

--RF Kosuke Fukudome hit his 200th professional home run. A longtime star in Japan, Fukudome has eight homers in his rookie year with the Cubs.

--LHP Scott Eyre pitched for the first time since June 26, giving up three hits and three runs in one-third of an inning. Eyre was on the disabled list from June 28-July 22 with a strained left groin. Manager Lou Piniella has been hesitant to use Eyre. Neal Cotts and Sean Marshall have been getting the bulk of the time for left-handers out of the bullpen.

--CF Jim Edmonds matched his career high with five RBIs. Edmonds had a cortisone shot in his left knee earlier this week because the knee had been bothering him since just after the All-Star break. It was his first start in the four-game series at Milwaukee, and he said he'll have to play through some discomfort the rest of the season.

--1B Derrek Lee went 0-for-5, making him 4-for-19 in the four-game series.

--"Oh, I don't know about statements. We came in here knowing that Milwaukee was playing solid baseball. We came in here with a purpose in mind, to win some baseball games, and that's exactly what we did." -- Cubs manager Lou Piniella, after his team completed a four-game sweep.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- The Cubs entered this week with seven "quality starts" since the All-Star break. The starters' ERA over those games was 2.10. But with the offense slumping, the Cubs' record over those games was just 3-4.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're just not scoring runs. Period. And if we continue to swing the bats like this the rest of the year, we ain't going to win that many, either." -- Manager Lou Piniella on his team's slumping offense.

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