"Two months ago, I think everybody would be begging for 7-3," Cubs outfielder Cliff Floyd said. "Right now, we're thankful, but at the same time, we're not complacent."
Two months ago, the Cubs were 20-23 and 6 1/2 games back in the division. On Sunday, they lost, 3-0, to the Arizona Diamondbacks, but are 51-46 and 3 1/2 games behind the divison-leading Milwaukee Brewers.
"We're going to try to look at the big picture," Chicago's Mark DeRosa said. "We went 7-3 on the homestand, which is pretty darn good. We should feel confident. We miss Derrek [Lee]. It'll be nice to get him back in the lineup. He's our leader, he's our guy. You put him in our lineup and it lengthens it out and makes us a more potent offense."
And if Lee's back, DeRosa won't have to play first base.
"And I don't have to play first anymore," DeRosa said, sounding relieved.
Lee, one of the Cubs' All-Stars, returns from his five-game suspension Tuesday. The Cubs went 3-2 without him, losing the last two games. Chris Snyder hit a solo homer to back Yusmeiro Petit and lift the Diamondbacks to victory over the Cubs, who lost back-to-back games for the first time since June 20-21.
Petit (2-2), making his fifth start, gave up three hits and struck out five over six innings for the win. The Cubs lost the series, only the second in their last eight, and lost a series at home for the first time since dropping two out of three to San Diego June 15-17.
"You want to win series," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said before the game. "You win series, and you pick up ground. You can't do it every day. We're playing good teams and they're out there for a purpose, too, to win baseball games. Let's just win with consistency."
Sean Marshall (4-4) posted a quality start, he just didn't get any run support. The left-hander struck out five and gave up five hits and two walks over six innings but took the loss. He has given up two or fewer earned runs in nine of his 11 starts.
"He really did well and kept us in the ballgame," Piniella said of Marshall. "Our pitching was real good this whole series, but the last couple days, we just didn't swing the bat. Give Arizona's pitching credit -- they have some good arms and they pitched well."
The Cubs have scored three runs while Marshall was in the game in his four losses.
"It's not a big deal to me," Marshall said. "I just want to pitch well, and keep the team in every game, and hopefully get good results out of it."
The lone run off Marshall came with two outs in the Arizona first when Eric Byrnes singled, stole second and scored one batter later on Mark Reynolds' single. Snyder connected off Carlos Marmol leading off the Arizona seventh for his eighth homer and Conor Jackson added an RBI single. Marmol came into the game having given up two runs on six hits over his last 11 2/3 innings. He'll get a little breather to help him regain his command, Piniella said.
The D-backs bullpen gave up three runs in one inning on Friday, then combined for eight scoreless innings in the last two games of the series, striking out eight.
"They're tough, they throw hard, and they're smart," Floyd said of Arizona's relievers. "I think [manager Bob] Melvin has done a great job using them and letting them understand their roles. They come in and know exactly what to do in key situations."
It was an "ugly" game, Floyd said of his personal performance. He was nearly hit in the face with a fly ball to right that he lost briefly in the sun, and struck out three times.
"I felt I was missing some pitches I should've hit," Floyd said. "I was really dumbfounded [as to] why I was missing them."
Maybe it had something to do with Arizona's pitching.
"That [Tony] Pena guy is absolutely nasty with the stuff he's throwing," DeRosa said, "and [Jose] Valverde is an All-Star. We didn't swing the bats, we didn't put any pressure on them. Tip your hat to their starter -- he nibbled on the corners and threw a lot of changeups to right-handers, which we're not used to seeing. Partial credit to them, partial discredit to us, for not swinging the bats."
Sunday's crowd of 41,705 pushed the Cubs over 2 million in home attendance for the 19th straight full season since 1987. The team has drawn 2,031,155 to Wrigley Field in 51 home dates.
"You always like to play well at home," Floyd said. "The 10th man are the fans. You appreciate them. When you're on the field, they're always backing you. I was 0-for-3, and they're just giving you love. You need that. And in return, you want to give them good baseball. The last 25 games or so, we've given them pretty good baseball. Hopefully, they'll keep coming out."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.