The Cubs still are tied for first place in the National League Central, despite themselves, thanks to the New York Mets.
And guess who comes into Wrigley Field for a three-game series starting Friday?
Those same Mets who helped the Cubs climb into first in the first place because they beat the Brewers twice in three days.
But what the Cubs need just as badly as a victory against the National League's best team is a strong—and long—outing from staff ace Carlos Zambrano because the Cubs bullpen has thrown 10 2/3 innings in the last two days.
Sean Marshall couldn't get out of the third inning Thursday in an eventual 10-6 loss to the Phillies that gave the teams a split of their four-game series.
However, Marshall may have more of an excuse that Rich Hill did the day before because he woke up Thursday with a scratched right cornea and was sent to an eye specialist after leaving the game with a 7-1 deficit.
"I don't know if that had anything to do with [his short outing], but it could have," manager Lou Piniella said.
Marshall had a 2.31 earned-run average in his previous four starts and had allowed two or fewer runs in 10 of his 12 starts. But he was so bad Thursday that he even walked pinch-hitting pitcher Adam Eaton during a three-run second.
The rest of the day was spent bringing in relievers and trying to play catch-up, which the Cubs did the day before for Hill but couldn't do Thursday.
"We didn't need another short outing, for sure," Piniella said. "The bullpen has done a yeoman's job, but we have to start getting more innings out of our starting staff. …
"What we really need is for Hill to kick it in a little bit," Piniella said. "We probably need him more than the other guys to pitch deeper into games. He's certainly more than capable of it."
Relievers Rocky Cherry, Scott Eyre and Michael Wuertz held the Phillies scoreless until the ninth inning and Cubs hitters had climbed back to a 7-6 deficit going into the ninth.
But Will Ohman, supposedly a lefty specialist, had to pitch an entire inning and put the game out of reach when he gave up three runs. Ohman finished the inning so Piniella wouldn't have to go to another overworked reliever.
"You can't go after every ballgame like it's the end of the season," Piniella said.
"That's a big hole to come back from, but we fought," Derrek Lee said. "It would have been nice to sneak one out, but they were able to tack on some big runs in the ninth."
In the end, the Phillies outhit the Cubs 16-13 and both teams left 11 men on base.
In fact, the Cubs scored once in the first inning, but Jacque Jones left the bases loaded when he hit a shot back to the mound that deflected off starter Kyle Lohse to Ryan Howard on the fly and effectively ended Lohse's day. They scored twice more in the third inning and once in the fourth.
In the eighth, with one run home on Alfonso Soriano's double and Ryan Theriot's single, Lee bounced into a force play and pinch-hitter Mark De Rosa flied out following a walk to Aramis Ramirez.
"That's a tough team," Cliff Floyd said. "They came in with a better record than we had. I thought we swung the bats pretty decent. You have to take some positives out of it and the positive would be we were down early and came back."
But there were negatives as well, and Piniella has talked about going to 13 pitchers, which would give him eight relievers.
"And if that isn't enough we'll go with 14," he said before the game.
He was laughing.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times