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Wood blows lead in Cubs' 4-3 loss
For those who believe in such things, the reason Ronny Cedeno went from hero to goat Sunday might have been that infamous billy goat's footprint changing the direction of a high-hopping ball near second base.
Even for those who don't believe the Cubs are eternally doomed, Sunday would give them pause.
After losing seven of eight games, including Sunday's 4-3 stinker to the Reds, it is understandable that the mentality has evolved into a sky-is-falling September swoon.
Can anyone put things in perspective? If manager Lou Piniella could, he certainly didn't try Sunday. He refused to meet with the media for the first time this season.
So it was up to team elder Derrek Lee to assess the mood.
"We still can't panic," Lee said. "We're still in good shape. We just need to be better. We're a better team than this, and we would like to play better. You don't ever want to play under your talent level, and that's what we're doing right now.
"We're in a funk. We're in a skid. We've just got to fight out of it."
With 19 games left, the fight goes to St. Louis after the Cubs take Monday off.
The Cubs hold a four-game lead over Milwaukee. So even though the Cubs have won just once in the last eight games, the Brewers have gained only 21/2 games in the standings.
"We could be eight or nine [ahead] right now," said Kerry Wood, who allowed three ninth-inning runs and took the loss. "Fortunately, [Milwaukee has] lost when we lost. They're kind of doing us a favor.
"We're not playing good baseball. When you're not playing as well as you want to play, you've got to win games like that — and close games. We didn't do it today."
The Cubs had been 76-4 when leading after eight innings until the Reds strung together a single, Jim Edmonds' error, a walk, a forceout, another walk, a two-run double that was at first ruled an error on Cedeno and a game-winning single by Jolbert Cabrera.
The Reds' three runs erased a 3-1 Cubs lead made possible in part by Cedeno's RBI double in the seventh. It could have been a game-winning hit for Cedeno, who entered the game in the bottom of the sixth inning because Ryan Theriot was feeling light-headed.
But in the ninth, Cedeno helped let the game get away. With the bases loaded and the Cubs ahead by two, he muffed a sharp hopper by pinch-hitter Chris Dickerson that at best would have been a game-ending double play and at worst was a forceout with only one run scoring.
"I tried, but I couldn't do anything with it," Cedeno said. "I didn't try to do too much. I've got to try to get one [out]. If I make one, we still win.
"It's very frustrating because I'm trying to make that play. It's really tough."
It was the seventh time the Cubs had lost on a walk-off play but the first since July 18 at Houston.
"We didn't play good defense, and that's what it came down to," Lee said. "We kind of handed them the game. It's unfortunate.
"This one hurts. We've been so good at going into the eighth and ninth with a lead. I think that's been our strength; we win those games."
The offense, which produced 18 hits and 14 runs a night earlier, was limited to seven hits and three runs Sunday. Ten runners were left on base, including seven in the last three innings.
"We should have scored more runs," Lee said. "We got enough hits to put more runs on the board.
"Good teams play good baseball. And obviously this last week it hasn't happened. All you can do is keep fighting."