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One day after getting criticized for taking out Carlos Zambrano too early, Cubs manager Lou Piniella may have allowed Ted Lilly to stick around too long.
Lilly struggled from the outset in the Cubs' 8-4 loss to Arizona in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, putting the Cubs in an 0-2 hole as they headed back to Chicago for Friday's off day.
Only three teams have bounced back from 0-2 deficits to win a division series-the New York Yankees over Oakland in 2001, Boston over Oakland in '03, and Seattle over the Yankees in '95.
Piniella was the manager of that Mariners team that came back off the mat in '95, so at least he knows first-hand that it can be done.
"Look, we're going home, we've got our home fans, and we've got a chance to get it back here with a couple of wins," Piniella said.
Can the Cubs pull off a miracle, or will their season come to an end this weekend at Wrigley Field?
"We're more than [capable] of taking three games from any team in baseball," Mark DeRosa said. "I don't want to say it's time to push the panic button, because it's not. But we need to play perfect baseball."
Rich Hill will face Livan Hernandez in Game 3 on Saturday as the Cubs try to stave off a sweep and take it to Game 4, where Zambrano would pitch on three days' rest.
Lilly took the ball for Game 2, knowing the fate of the Cubs' season could very well be in his hands. But the veteran left-hander allowed six runs on seven hits and four walks in only 3 1/3 innings, leaving with the Cubs trailing 6-2.
"This is something I'm going to have a hard time with," Lilly said. "I certainly want to get another opportunity like this and try to redeem myself and help us. Tonight was a night I didn't do us much good in a big game. You look over the season, and I could care less how many games I've won. Once you get in the postseason, this is what it's all about. It's not going to be easy to swallow."
The D'backs led 8-2 in the sixth when Daryle Ward's pinch-hit, two-run double off ex-Cub Juan Cruz made it a four-run game, but the Cubs' offense was otherwise lifeless. Their top three stars, Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, are a combined 4-for-27 with no RBIs.
"I know myself I have to step up," Lee said. "It's obvious. I haven't hit. I need to help my team. My job is to drive in runs and get on base."
Doug Davis allowed four runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings for the D'backs, leaving with an 8-2 lead and notching the win. Lilly didn't fare nearly as well, and it was evident at the outset.
Lilly walked two batters in the first inning, getting off on the wrong foot, but managed to strand a pair of runners by striking out Mark Reynolds. But after Geovany Soto's home run off Doug Davis gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the second, Lilly blew a gasket in the bottom of the inning.
With runners on second and third and two outs, Lilly grooved a 3-2 pitch to Chris Young, then slammed his glove to the ground in disgust as Young launched a three-run, 421-foot home run to deep left field, giving the D'backs a 3-2 lead.
"I've never seen a pitcher throw a glove like that on the mound," Piniella said.
Lilly was upset with the fastball he threw, which was high and right in Young's power zone.
"I've got zero excuses," Lilly said. "I guess if I really wanted to find some excuses I could come up with some. But that's not going to get me anywhere."
The debacle continued when Soriano misjudged a catchable ball at the wall later in the inning to give Eric Byrnes an RBI triple.
"I missed the ball because I got very close to the wall," Soriano said. "It was too high. I didn't know it was going to hit that high. I did the best I can to catch that ball."
By the time Lilly got out of the inning, he'd already thrown 58 pitches, and his stuff was obviously not up to snuff. Kevin Hart finally was called upon in the fourth after Lilly gave up a two-run triple to Drew.
As the Cubs took the field in the bottom of the fifth inning of Game 2, former Cubs first baseman Mark Grace, now an analyst on D'backs radio broadcasts, blasted the Cubs for having "bad body language" and for hanging their heads.
"They're looking at their toes instead of being on their toes," Grace told his radio audience.
Lee said Grace's comment was simply wrong.
"I didn't see that," he said. "It always seems when you don't score runs, people say you're dead or whatever. But we were in it. We were very in it. We never stopped trying. It just didn't work out. So it's easy to start saying we weren't in it because we weren't scoring runs."
Now Piniella will be under the spotlight this weekend with the Cubs coming home after letting the D'backs get the upper hand. His moves will be talked about all winter if the Cubs go down in three games.
"I've had bad games as a manager," he said. "But I've been doing this a hell of a long time, so I've had a lot more good games than bad games."