With 10 games remaining and the Cubs having the worst record in the National League, their only goal is escaping the Central Division basement.
But the Cubs fell 4-1 Tuesday to the Phillies, increasing the difficulty of passing the Pirates.
The Cubs' modest winning streak ended at three games and the loss dropped them to 62-90, their fifth season of 90 or more losses in the last 10 years. For manager Dusty Baker, it was his first 90-loss season since his Giants went 68-94 in 1996.
"We just have to start a new streak [Wednesday] and finish strong," Baker said. "You can't bring back what already has happened. You just go forward."
Former Cub Jamie Moyer allowed one run in seven innings to improve to 3-2 with the Phillies. Two of Moyer's victories have come against the Cubs.
In the best outing of his three starts since returning from shoulder surgery, Cubs right-hander Wade Miller allowed one earned run in 42/3 innings and struck out eight, including five straight from the second to the fourth innings. For a split second he looked like the old Wade Miller, the one who struck out 183 during a 16-8 season with the Astros in 2001.
"Yeah, except for the velocity," he said. "I was able to get a strikeout when I needed to. I felt like I had good stuff."
Miller escaped bases-loaded jams twice, getting a called third strike past Pat Burrell to end the first and getting Jimmy Rollins to miss on a 74-m.p.h. changeup to end the fourth.
"With runners on base, this guy showed no fear," Baker said. "It was a very positive outing for him."
Miller (0-2) was in a groove in the fifth after retiring the first two batters before Ryan Howard singled and David Dellucci delivered an RBI double.
Miller was pulled after 98 pitches, but Roberto Novoa walked Burrell and watched Chris Coste reach when shortstop Ronny Cedeno had trouble getting the ball out of his glove.
Abraham Nunez followed with a two-run bloop single to make it 3-0.
The Cubs entered Tuesday's game with a .276 batting average in the second half, best in the National League. Yet they still ranked only 15th for the season in runs scored, due largely to a consistent lack of clutch hitting.
After Matt Murton's sixth-inning home run pulled the Cubs to within 3-1 and Henry Blanco led off the seventh with a single, Baker opted to have Cedeno lay down a sacrifice bunt. But Geovany Soto struck out and Freddie Bynum grounded to first.
Juan Pierre singled and stole his 53rd base with one out in the eighth, leaving him one shy of tying Ryne Sandberg for the most stolen bases by a Cubs player since Frank Chance's 57 in 1906. But Aramis Ramirez and Murton grounded out, stranding Pierre.
Now the Cubs have to decide whether to re-sign Miller for 2007. Miller believes he will be back.
"I think so," he said. "We'll have to talk in the off-season and see if we can work something out. I think it'd be great."
firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times