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Dale Sveum says Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro are keys to trade-depleted lineup


Starlin Castro

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Updated: August 30, 2013 6:49AM

SAN FRANCISCO — Even before Alfonso Soriano was traded to the New York Yankees, Cubs manager Dale Sveum took a look at his half-stirring lineup and pointed at kid core guys Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro as keys to the final 2½ months.

“We need those guys to produce,” he said after getting held to three runs each in last weekend’s series at Colorado. “They’re our [middle-of-the-order] guys and they’re going to have to produce or else we’ll have more games like those three.”

And now? Welcome to the 2013 Cubs, post Soriano. Since the Cubs got to AT&T Park without him, they scored one earned run in Friday’s come-from-behind 3-2 victory. And they didn’t score at all through eights innings Saturday before a solo shot in the ninth by Nate Schierholtz produced a 1-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants. The hosts loaded the bases in the ninth against closer Kevin Gregg before a 3-2-3 double play ended the game.

Rizzo has continued to struggle since the All-Star break, going 6-for-35 (.171) with one homer during the first nine games of this 10-game trip.

Castro has continued a ­rediscovered stroke that started in late June after his only day off of the season.

“I feel pretty good,” he said, “and the luck is coming back.”

Whatever it is, it has led to him .313 with a .347 on-base percentage and 11 extra-base hits in 26 games — before another multihit game (2-for-4) Saturday.

He was hitting .228 (.264 OBP) until then.

“My timing is back,” said Castro, who also says he was able to help clear his head with a few days home during the All-Star break.

Cleanup mess?

Replacing Soriano’s role as cleanup hitter could remain a work in progress the rest of the season for a lineup already baseball-challenged with men in scoring position.

On Saturday against the San Francisco Giants, it was switch-hitting backup catcher Dioner Navarro’s turn at the cleanup spot — where he had batted once in his career, seven years ago.

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