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Cubs’ offense struggles again in 5-1 loss to Cardinals

Bryan LaHair Cubs heads dugout after hitting solo home run fourth inning Wrigley Field Wednesday April 25 2012 Chicago. |

Bryan LaHair of the Cubs heads to the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning at Wrigley Field Wednesday, April 25, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 28, 2012 8:58AM

The Cubs this week announced a Social Media Night for next month, for which they’ll charge $27 (‘‘before taxes and fees’’), provide a free hot dog and T-shirt and feature a pregame ‘‘social-media panel’’ at the Captain Morgan Club (where beverages presumably aren’t free).

Other marketing highlights this week included the ongoing presence of ‘‘the noodle’’ across Clark Street and a beer-drinking, ivy-stroking, Twitpic-taking group of patrons on the right-field warning track after players cleared the field following the Cubs’ 5-1 loss Wednesday to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Debate the brilliance or crassness of capitalizing on every available inch and salable second of access to the 98-year-old ballpark (or, in the case of ‘‘the noodle,’’ related property). But what’s not debatable is the grossly underused area between the batters’ boxes.

For all the ad nauseam selling, the Cubs chose not to buy a hitter during the offseason and now can’t buy a run.

‘‘We’ve still got to swing the bats a little bit better, score some runs, get bigger leads,’’ manager Dale Sveum said after acknowledging that, despite the loss, the Cubs closed their second homestand of the season by winning their first series since last September.

Without somebody besides first baseman Bryan LaHair getting involved in some regular run production, the rest of the Cubs’ season figures to look a lot like their 6-13 start — with far more games (11 so far) below their 3.5-run scoring average than above.

The Cubs rank second from the bottom in the National League in slugging percentage and third from the bottom in on-base percentage, which doesn’t give them a lot to work with in terms of scoring chances.

Not to mention run support for guys such as Chris Volstad (0-3), who nursed a 1-1 game into the sixth inning before allowing a run-scoring double to Carlos Beltran, followed by a two-run home run to David Freese. That left Volstad winless again in a streak that now spans 15 starts dating to before the 2011 All-Star break.

A difference of just one inning?

‘‘One swing, right?’’ Volstad said.

But Volstad wasn’t complaining about run support.

‘‘It doesn’t matter if I give up four runs,’’ he said.

Nobody outside the clubhouse expected the Cubs to be among the top-scoring teams in the league this season, much less to be mashers. But if the early indicators mean anything, it might be a longer uphill climb for this rebuilding lineup than even some of the skeptics thought entering the season.

Just look at what it took for them to win a series for the first time this season:

† The Cubs trailed 2-1 in the ninth Monday before Joe Mather’s two-run single with two outs gave them a 3-2 victory.

† They trailed 2-1 in the ninth again Tuesday before LaHair tied the score with a homer. Alfonso Soriano then won the game in the 10th with a hot shot off the second baseman that went for a run-scoring single.

Imagine where the Cubs would be without LaHair, who drew a 12-pitch walk in the ninth Monday to start the winning rally. He has four of the Cubs’ seven homers, and three have tied the score or put the Cubs ahead.

‘‘It’s nice,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘Coming in, he was one guy that we needed to hit home runs, and he’s hit some big ones for us.’’

Who knew he’d be the only one?

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