"I thought it was a corporate crowd [Wednesday] night," manager Lou Piniella said. "Playoffs."
Carlos Zambrano and the infield defense fell apart during a five-run second inning of an 10-3 loss to the Dodgers, putting the Cubs in a 2-0 hole as the series heads to Los Angeles for Saturday night's Game 3.
"I don't think you can win 97 ballgames playing that way," Piniella said. "That wasn't good baseball. In fact, the last two games were probably the two worst games we played all year, from a walking and errors standpoint. It wasn't fun to watch, I can tell you that."
Zambrano lasted 61/3 innings, allowing seven runs on six hits, leaving to a standing ovation from the crowd of 42,136. Russell Martin's three-run double on a 3-1 pitch in the second broke the game open, after Mark DeRosa and Derrek Lee errors opened the door to the big inning.
The Cubs have lost eight straight playoff games dating back to the 2003 NL Championship Series, when they took a 3-1 lead over Florida before losing the final three games.
Before the start of Thursday's game, DeRosa called it a "do-or-die" situation for the Cubs.
"You don't want to get on that 41/2-hour flight down 0-2," he said. "[But] you can't go out and put undue pressure on yourself."
But the players looked tight as a drum from start to finish, and all four starting infielders committed an error as the Cubs tied a division series record. DeRosa fumbled a potential double-play ball and Lee muffed a grounder in the second before Zambrano grooved a pitch to Martin with the bases loaded.
Aramis Ramirez booted one in the fourth and Ryan Theriot made an errant throw in the ninth.
Though Zambrano wasn't completely at fault, he served up Manny Ramirez's 450-foot, center-field home run over the Batter's Eye restaurant in the fifth, adding to the nightmare.
Piniella disputed DeRosa's "do-or-die" theory, trying to keep the team as loose as possible.
"This isn't life or death," he said. "It's a game. It's entertainment. … But look … there are important issues in this country that people should be paying attention to, not only what the Cubs do or do not do. I want to win as much as anybody, but if you can't be loose, and have some fun and you can't enjoy the moment, then you don't belong here."
But there weren't many moments to enjoy in these games. After scoring two runs off Dodgers starter Derek Lowe on Wednesday, Chad Billingsley shut them down on one run and five hits Thursday.
Everyone contributed to the debacle, including the main culprits from last year's first-round sweep by Arizona. Lee, Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano have yet to drive in a run in five postseason games in '07 and '08, combining to hit .200. Kosuke Fukudome is 0-for-8 in the series, after striking out three times Thursday.
"From now on I don't want to hear about Fukudome, whether he'll play or not," Piniella said. "I'll play [ Mike] Fontenot or Reed Johnson or someone, and that's the end of that."
Add in poor performances from starters Ryan Dempster and Zambrano, and it was no surprise that the crowd was so quiet.
"I guess people just came to the ballpark, and when it went south a little bit, they probably were looking for doom and gloom," general manager Jim Hendry said.
There was plenty of gloom and doom to see Thursday, as the 100-year drought nears 101.