MLB Insiders - Chicago Cubs

Zach Duke

The Pirates open a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on Monday night. Lefty Zach Duke will be on the mound for the Cubs. The Cubs will counter with right-hander Rich Harden.

The Cubs go to Pittsburgh on Monday night to begin a three-game series, which will end a 10-game road trip on which they've managed only one win thus far.

Rich Harden (4-4, 4.95 ERA) will try to get Chicago off to a strong start as he looks to convert his first game against Pittsburgh into his first win in nearly seven weeks.

The right-hander is 0-3 with a 5.64 ERA in four starts since a 6-2 win over San Diego on May 12. His losing streak started five days later with a 6-5 defeat to Houston, and a lower back strain landed him on the disabled list the following day.

Harden is 0-2 with a 5.51 ERA in three starts since returning from the DL.

Zach Duke (8-5, 3.09) will try to extend his home winning streak to six starts and get his first win over the Cubs in more than three years.

The left-hander has a 2.50 ERA in winning his last five outings at PNC Park.

Duke continued his impressive streak Wednesday, yielding one run and five hits in six innings of a 10-6 win over Cleveland.

Duke, though, is 0-5 with a 4.35 ERA in 10 starts against the Cubs since beating them May 2, 2006. He has a 2.76 ERA in five career meetings at Pittsburgh, but only a 1-2 record to show for it.

Despite a host of problems, on offense and defense and with injuries, manager Lou Piniella remains optimistic.

"How many below-.500 seasons do the Cubs have in their franchise history?" Piniella asked Sunday. "We're (two games) under .500, and we've had all kinds of problems here. It's not where you're at in June. It's where you finish, and hopefully, we'll finish a lot better than where we're at now. Frustrating? The injuries sort have taken away a little bit of club can do. But you know they're part of the game, too."

Piniella has lamented his team's lack of timely hitting all season long. After Sunday's 6-0 loss to the White Sox, he said the defense would need shoring up, too, in the wake of some sloppy play.

The Cubs are due to get third baseman Aramis Ramirez and reliever Angel Guzman off the DL soon, and Piniella's hope is that the team will stay close enough to make a move.

"I still cling to the fact that we're going to have a good second half of the season, and the second half, I'm not talking about after the All-Star Game," he said. "We can start the first of July. It can start today, for that matter. I think that when it's all said and done, people will be pleased with what we do the rest of the year. I cling to that, and that's it."

WHITE SOX 6, CUBS 0: The Cubs managed just four hits and were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. RHP Carlos Zambrano lasted just 5 1/3 innings, giving up nine hits and five runs, four earned. The Cubs fell to two games under .500 (35-37) for the first time all year.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Carlos Zambrano had his streak of five straight quality starts end. In his previous four starts, he went at least seven innings. Zambrano said he did not feel as sharp Sunday as he had in recent outings.

--1B Derrek Lee has picked up at least one hit in 24 of his last 25 games, during which he's gone 34-for-97 (.351). Lee leads the team with 39 RBIs.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 -- The Cubs entered the week having played seven extra-inning games in June, most in the majors. The team record for one month is eight, set most recently in September 2004.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't have the same set of rules as other people. I've made some mistakes in my past, so I don't get the leeway other people get. To a certain extent I guess that's fair." -- RF Milton Bradley on being sent home during a game last Friday.

ROSTER REPORT

--3B Aramis Ramirez reported some soreness in his left shoulder Sunday after Saturday's session of batting practice. He took a light session Sunday. Ramirez, recovering from a dislocated left shoulder, is due to go on a minor league rehab stint soon. He has been out since May 8.

--IF Aaron Miles continues to be hampered by a sore right elbow. The Cubs may decide Monday whether they need to put him on the DL. If that happens, look for them to recall IF Bobby Scales from Class AAA Iowa (Des Moines).

--IF-OF Jake Fox will see additional time at third base because of his productive hitting, according to manager Lou Piniella. Fox, a rookie, ws the Cubs' DH Sunday. He's batting .326 with two homers and 11 RBIs. He has been working on his infield defense with coach Alan Trammell, and the Cubs now appear comfortable with letting him play third.

MEDICAL WATCH:

3B Aramis Ramirez (dislocated right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list May 9. He hit soft-toss pitches June 17, took full batting practice on June 26 and then a lighter session on June 27 after he experienced some shoulder soreness from the previous day's workout. He might start a rehab assignment in early July. He hopes to be back before the All-Star break.

INF/OF Ryan Freel (strained left hamstring) went on the 15-day disabled list May 28. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Iowa on June 15, and he was activated June 25.

OF Reed Johnson (stiff back) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 21.

RHP Angel Guzman (strained right triceps) went on the 15-day disabled list June 21.

LHP Jason Waddell (non-baseball-related medical issue) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 13.

RHP Chad Fox (right elbow inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list May 10. He might miss the remainder of the season.

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