Dusty Baker charged his team with looking "kind of spacey" Saturday during a 4-1 loss to St. Louis.
Considering the Cubs had lost their best hitter for two to three months and were playing their archrivals, there was no good excuse for that kind of mind-set.
Are they lost in space without Derrek Lee?
"The loss of D-Lee is more mental than anything," second baseman Todd Walker said. "Plus we were playing the Central Division champs right when we lose D-Lee, and they're playing pretty good right now. So I don't think there's an overreaction that we've lost two without Derrek. We're playing pretty good."
Still, the Cubs had only six hits against Sidney Ponson and three relievers, five in the first three innings, making Lee's absence that much more pronounced.
"You can't replace [Lee]," right fielder Jacque Jones said. "No matter what you do, you'll probably do more harm than good if you try to do more than you're capable of.
"I don't think anybody is trying to be Superman. I don't think anybody is trying to be a hero. We just lost two games."
The Cubs had a chance to break it open early, loading the bases with one out in the third. But they managed only one run, on Aramis Ramirez's shot to third that Scott Rolen backhanded and barely nipped Ramirez at first.
The Cubs offense has regressed thus far in 2006, even with Lee playing 14 of their 16 games. Going into Saturday's game, they had dropped from second in National League home runs in 2005 to 13th in 2006, from second in slugging percentage to 13th, from 11th in on-base percentage to 15th, and from ninth to 12th in runs. They still rank dead last in walks, just as in '05.
The only improvement has been in stolen bases, from 13th to fifth, primarily because of the addition of Juan Pierre.
Cubs starter Glendon Rusch carried a 1-0 lead in the fifth and retired the first two hitters before walking the No. 8 hitter, So Taguchi, and pinch-hitter John Rodriguez. David Eckstein's single tied the game and Rusch was removed after walking Hector Luna to reload the bases.
"Three out of four guys walked," Rusch said. "That's inexcusable."
Albert Pujols greeted Scott Williamson with a two-run single up the middle to put the Cardinals ahead for keeps.
Trying to spark the lineup, Baker inserted Ronny Cedeno into the No. 2 hole for the first time this season, giving the Cubs some added speed at the top. He advanced from first to third on Walker's single in the first, but Walker was thrown out attempting to take second on Jim Edmonds' throw to third. Rolen's relay to second easily beat Walker.
Instead of having runners at the corners with one out and Ramirez up, the Cubs had a man on third with two outs. As expected, Ponson pitched around Ramirez, walking him in favor of John Mabry, who hit a soft liner to short to end the inning.
Baker had no problem with Walker's base-running gamble.
"The throw wasn't high enough to do that, but we're working our guys to be aggressive on the bases," he said. "He knows he made a mistake on that one."
Walker testily said he only did what he has been taught.
"We've been taught our whole life to read the throw high and take the bag," he said. "Hindsight is 20-20, isn't it? If he bounces it to [Rolen], I have a chance. If Rolen tries to make the tag, I have a chance. If he tags him out, we have a guy in scoring position with two outs. They made two perfect throws.
"Hindsight being 20-20, you probably don't want to make the second out at second base."