For Cubs fans desperate for any sliver of positive news, here are two items:
Sammy Sosa still has three games left to shoot for the elusive two home runs he needs to reach 50 for the season and 500 for his big-league career.
The Cincinnati Reds have left town.
In shutting out the Cubs and Carlos Zambrano 1-0 before a crowd of 20,032 Thursday at Wrigley Field, the Reds swept the three-game series, left Sosa stuck on 498 career homers and held the hapless Cubs to two runs in three games.
With the crowd pulling for him Thursday, Sosa took a called third strike, singled off winning pitcher Danny Graves' glove and twice grounded out to second base.
"I'm not pressing," Sosa said. "But they are pitching me great in this series. Good pitching stops good hitting. You have to understand, what I'm trying to do is not easy.
"A lot of people are behind me. They want me to do it. But I have to be patient."
Sosa meant the type of patience that keeps him selective at the plate while looking for the pitcher to make a mistake he can drive over the wall.
"I have three games left," Sosa said. "I have to get ready for Pittsburgh. If [the Pirates] pitch to me, if I'm patient, I could do it. If not, I'll get [No. 500] next year."
Sosa rejected a thought manager Bruce Kimm had to move him from No. 3 in the batting order to No. 1 or No. 2 in hopes of getting him an extra at-bat or two against the Pirates.
"I feel great where I am now at No. 3," he said.
Graves (7-3) registered seven of the 10 strikeouts by the Cubs, who ran their season total to 1,245, the highest in the majors.
Sosa in right field and Alex Gonzalez at shortstop were the only two regulars to start.
But Corey Patterson came up as a pinch-hitter and whiffed for his 141st time this year. Sosa's strikeout was his 139th.
The Reds scored the game's only run without a hit in the fourth inning.
Aaron Boone walked, took second and third on infield outs and scored on Jose Guillen's single to right.
Zambrano (4-8) viewed his seven-inning, four-hit effort with mixed emotions.
"I'm happy for one thing, unhappy for another," he said. "I'm happy that, as a rookie, I pitched tough. I'm unhappy we did not make the playoffs."