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Lou Piniella said Wednesday afternoon the Cubs came to Florida with three mulligans, but used one of them up with Tuesday's loss.
After Wednesday's 7-4 loss to Florida, the Cubs suddenly were down to one mulligan with four games remaining.
"We have one left, and I tell you what, I usually like to keep it on the golf course until the 18th hole," Piniella said with a laugh. "But I'm not sure now. We're going to play [Thursday]. We'll beat these guys and go from there."
With Milwaukee losing 7-3 to St. Louis at Miller Park, the Cubs retained their two-game lead in the National League Central, and their magic number was sliced to three. They were still in relatively good position, despite back-to-back losses at Dolphin Stadium.
"Our fate is in our hands," losing pitcher Jason Marquis said. "We still have the lead."
Fate is usually the operative word with the Cubs, who have lost nine straight to Florida over the last two years, including five in a row this year.
"They feel nice and comfortable against the Cubbies," Piniella said.
And it doesn't get any easier Thursday when Steve Trachsel takes his hefty 7.62 ERA to the mound against Crystal Lake South alum Scott Olsen. Trachsel already was feeling a little tight under the collar after Wednesday's loss, shouting expletives at the media from the other side of the clubhouse.
Are the Cubs getting a bit uptight?
"We find ourselves in situations where a big hit can be huge for us," Mark DeRosa said. "And maybe we are pressing a little bit. We have to realize we're still in first place …
"You can't play too loose, because you have to realize what's at stake. You can't let it affect your play. I'd like to think we're not playing tight, but maybe there are some circumstances where we were."
The Cubs were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, though Jacque Jones, who drove in three runs, said he was relaxed.
"I can't speak for everybody," he said. "All I know is I'm going to have as much fun as I can when I'm out on the field."
After the Cubs took a 2-1 lead on Jones' two-run single in the second, DeRosa made an errant toss to second on a potential double-play grounder in the bottom of the inning, leading to three runs off Marquis.
Derrek Lee's homer in the third pulled the Cubs to within a run before DeRosa's triple and Jones' sacrifice fly tied it 4-4 in the fourth.
Marquis began to settle down, and convinced Piniella to leave him in to face Matt Treanor after Todd Linden's two-out double in the fifth. But Treanor's RBI single gave the Marlins a 5-4 lead, and in the seventh Miguel Cabrera ended Carlos Marmol's 23 1/3 -inning scoreless streak with a two-run homer.
Piniella said the lack of batting and infield practice in Florida because of pre-game rainstorms had a negative affect on the Cubs.
"You don't get on the field for two days because of this darn rain in Florida—and I'm a native of Florida—we need some sun," Piniella said with a grin.
"Where in the heck is that Florida sunshine. … We need to get on the field a little bit. That's not an excuse either. We just didn't play well. What can I say?
"I think we're trying to make spectacular plays, and we don't need to. A couple of plays out there were basically fairly routine, and we tried to over-do, and it cost us some runs, and basically cost us the ballgame."
The Cubs aren't counting their chickens yet, and Piniella insisted he hasn't discussed the possible postseason roster with general manager Jim Hendry.
"I think Jim is a little superstitious," he said. "I haven't thought about it very much at all."
After the developments of the last two days, perhaps waiting until it's over is a wise decision after all.