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Cubs’ trip against three contenders excites manager Mike Quade

Cubs shortstop StarlCastro hurdles Astros baserunner JasMichaels his way completing double play 10th inning Sunday.  |  Nam Y.

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro hurdles Astros baserunner Jason Michaels on his way to completing a double play in the 10th inning Sunday. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: October 29, 2011 12:36AM



The Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates are contenders in the National League Central, but the Cubs don’t want to be viewed as mere spoilers just yet.

‘‘Not right now,’’ manager Mike Quade said of the Cubs’ 10-game road trip to Milwaukee, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. ‘‘I’d like to build on the series we had here against Milwaukee [winning three of four last month].

‘‘I think this whole road trip is a challenge and an emotional lift. I can’t wait to .  .  . play those guys.’’

The trip begins Tuesday with three games against the Brewers and continues with three against the Cardinals before concluding with four against the Pirates. The Cubs are 4-3 against the Brewers, 1-5 against the Cardinals and 3-6 against the Pirates.

Deadline time

The Cubs will be in St. Louis at the non-waiver trade deadline Sunday, but deals could come any time before then.

Cubs veterans whose names will be raised in rumors should know how to handle the coming days, Quade said.

‘‘Show up every day and focus on who we’re playing,’’ he said. ‘‘Everyone deals with what’s around them and speculation. When I look at the veterans, this isn’t their first rodeo. I suppose it’s hard, but I would expect them not to be dispirited.

‘‘I would expect if someone brings up your name, it means they would want you and [regard it] as a good thing.’’

The non-waiver trade deadline might bring only the first wave of rumors surrounding Cubs players. Trades can be made through August if players clear waivers, and some players with sizable contracts — which would have to be picked up by the claiming team — likely would come through that process.

Rotation wheel

Ryan Dempster will open the series against the Brewers, followed by Carlos Zambrano and Randy Wells. Matt Garza will start the series against the Cardinals, followed by Rodrigo Lopez.

Quade said Lopez will be available out the bullpen at least on Tuesday.

‘‘He’s been pretty resilient,’’ Quade said of Lopez, who has been used in the rotation and long relief and even came on in the eighth inning Sunday after Jeff Samardzija gave up two runs against the Houston Astros.

Lopez (2-2, 3.55 ERA) has worked at least six innings in each of his last three starts, winning two of them.

By the numbers

The Cubs have their first three-game winning streak of the season and swept their first series of the season.

◆ The Cubs improved to 5-0 in extra-inning games at Wrigley Field and are 6-3 in extra innings overall.

◆ Catcher Geovany Soto is hitting .308 (20-for-65) in July.



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