Whether the Cubs are still on the outskirts of a pennant race, as Lou Piniella insisted before the 9-5 loss to Milwaukee, or just playing out the string, as most observers believe, every day at Wrigley Field is a blessing for those who work there.
The game goes on and the ballpark still is packed, so the players might as well enjoy themselves as the season dwindles down to a precious few games.
The Cubs came into this game only four games in the loss column behind the wild-card-leading Rockies, giving pause to those who believe in miracles.
"Look, you can see how many things have gone wrong for us this year, and you can see we're still in a race," Piniella said. "It goes to tell you that with some improvement we can get right back on top quickly.
"I would obviously anticipate this team being very competitive next year, and look, we still have 19 games to play. We're on the outskirts, but we're still there. We put together a nice little five- or six-game winning streak from here on out, and you'd be surprised how quickly you're in it."
How would that feel after being left for dead by fans and the media? Piniella changed the subject, spouting the old cliché about playing one game at a time.
"You start looking ahead or behind, you go crazy," Piniella said.
It's hard to believe Piniella hasn't gone crazy after the first 144 games of the season. For a CliffsNotes version of everything that went wrong, Piniella could point to Wednesday night as Exhibit A.
Starter Rich Harden lasted only three innings, throwing 71 pitches to force Piniella to go to his bullpen early.
"Got some ground balls, but they were just finding the holes, skipped through," Harden said.
Piniella said he may give Harden an extra day of rest before his next start, inserting Tom Gorzelanny into the mix.
"I don't think Soto knew the rule," Piniella said with a laugh. "I'll be honest with you. We told him he couldn't use his helmet either, just to make sure."
Later in the inning, Soto tagged out a runner at home on a bases-loaded grounder instead of just stepping on the plate for a force.
Bradley looked so disinterested during his second-inning strikeout that Piniella yanked him after the third. Piniella downplayed it afterward, saying it was only a double-switch.
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