Lou Piniella's fuse has been getting shorter and shorter as the Cubs' September slump grows longer and longer, and he finally erupted on Tuesday after his club's latest meltdown.
After St. Louis came back from a three-run deficit to notch a 4-3 victory on a check-swing RBI grounder to second by Cesar Izturis, Piniella admitted he was "tired of watching" his team lose without being aggressive.
"If we had played ball like this all year, we wouldn't be here playing for a championship," he said. "We'd be playing a spoiler role for somebody else. I know we're trying, I have no complaints with the effort. But you have to get the job done. We can talk about having fun. We can talk about relaxing. You have to get your damn [sleeves] rolled up and go out and kick somebody's [butt]. That's what you have to do, period."
The Cubs lost for the eighth time in nine games, leaving them 41/2 games ahead of second-place Milwaukee in the National League Central with 18 games to play.
This one was compounded by Sunday's ninth-inning loss at Cincinnati, in which the Cubs blew a two-run lead. Tuesday, Ryan Dempster was cruising into the sixth inning with a 3-0 lead before serving up a double, a bunt single and a three-run bomb to Albert Pujols.
The Cubs stranded eight runners, including three in scoring position by Alfonso Soriano. Piniella's postgame tirade was purposely loud enough to be heard in the Cubs clubhouse, though almost no one was in there to hear it.
"We had chances to score runs," Piniella said. "We're playing like we're waiting to get beat. You don't have enough of a big lead in September to play ball like that. Teams that play like that invariably get caught, no matter how big the lead. You have to stay aggressive. You have to do the things you've done all year. We're not executing, we're making mistakes and we're getting beat.
"And I'm getting tired of watching it, to be quite honest with you. That's not how we played all year to get to where we are now. And I know we're trying, but truthfully, trying isn't good enough."
Piniella said he would not speak to the team about his feelings.
"What do I have to address?" he said. "I guess they should know it."
Derrek Lee wasn't sure Piniella was on the mark with his comment.
"We're not playing good," he said. "I don't know about 'waiting to get beat.' We're not getting over the hump."
Though Dempster blamed himself, Piniella absolved him, saying Pujols "can hit a home run off anybody, and he did."
Dempster believes the Cubs just need to start having "fun," a word that seems to have been lost in the summer wind since September reared its head.
"We're putting pressure on ourselves to do more than we're capable of doing," he said. "The thing is, if we come to the ballpark and we're prepared and we hustle, with the talent in this room, we're going to be better than a lot of teams. Then you're just responsible for executing."
Geovany Soto's failure to execute a bunt helped squelch a potential rally in the eighth, though Soto had no sacrifice hits coming into the at-bat. Carlos Marmol, who left without talking, lost the game in the ninth after giving up a single, a balk, a walk and a sacrifice bunt before Izturis' check-swing grounder to second brought home the winning run.
"Nothing you can do," Soriano said. "We lost the game late. I think we have to score more runs and play nine innings."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun