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Cubs fall, but magic number diminishes

Cubs fall, but magic number reduced

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MIAMI -- Don't panic. At least that's the motto the Cubs have despite losing their second straight game Wednesday to the last-place Florida Marlins.

Miguel Cabrera drove in three runs, including a pair on his 34th homer in the seventh, and Jeremy Hermida hit a two-run single to lead the Marlins to a 7-4 victory over the Cubs. It was a sloppy game, and not the type of performance that will get the Cubs far in the postseason.

"It was a bad ballgame for us," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "I don't know if it was because we hadn't been on the field for three days or what. We've got to play better than that if we want to go forward."

Derrek Lee belted his 21st home run and Jacque Jones drove in three runs for the Cubs, whose magic number was reduced to three because the Milwaukee Brewers lost, 7-3, to the St. Louis Cardinals. Chicago has a two-game lead over the Brewers in the National League Central with four games remaining.

How's the mood in the Chicago clubhouse after losing its fifth in a row this season to the Marlins?

"I think we still feel like we're in first place, which we are," Jones said. "That's the bottom line."

Before the game, Piniella joked that when the team began this final regular-season road trip with a three-game lead, he had three mulligans. Golfers can relate.

"We have one left," he said after the game. "I usually like to keep it on the golf course until the 18th hole."

There are four games to go.

"Reality is setting in," Chicago's Mark DeRosa said. "We realize we have work to do. I said that after the game [Sunday] in Pittsburgh -- it's not over, and we're not making it easy on ourselves, and we haven't all year. It's nice to know we have a cushion, and we'll still have one after tonight, as slim as it might be. We have to stay positive and stay confident."

Jason Marquis (12-9) didn't get much help and took the loss, giving up five runs, four earned, on nine hits and two walks over five innings.

The Cubs led, 2-1, after Jones' two-run single in the second, but the Marlins went ahead, 4-2, in their half. Matt Treanor and Alejandro De Aza both singled, and one out later, Hanley Ramirez was safe on a throwing error by DeRosa, who flipped a relay throw to shortstop Ryan Theriot covering second, but missed. Dan Uggla walked to load the bases, and Hermida then dropped a single down the left-field line, driving in two.


"Reality is setting in. We realize we have work to do. ... it's not over, and we're not making it easy on ourselves, and we haven't all year."
-- Mark DeRosa

"We tried to turn a double play when maybe we should've taken an easy out," DeRosa said. "I don't have an answer -- it's the heat of the moment, you try to get something done. It didn't work out. I flipped it to the inside of the bag, he was going to the outside. Jason deserved better. Hermida ended up making us pay for that miscue. You just have to keep battling."

Lee closed the margin to 4-3 with his solo homer with two out in the third. It might have been a two-run blast, but Alfonso Soriano was called out on a questionable call by first-base umpire Jeff Kellogg. Soriano had singled and Theriot lined out to second baseman Uggla, who threw to first. Soriano's hand appeared to touch the base before Mike Jacobs' tag, but Kellogg didn't have the benefit of instant replay.

DeRosa tripled to lead off the fourth against Marlins starter Daniel Barone and scored on Jones' sacrifice fly to tie the game at 4. Florida then went ahead in the fifth, when Todd Linden doubled and scored on Treanor's single. Treanor was thrown out trying to stretch his hit, the second assist of the game for Soriano, and 18th of the season.

Cabrera belted his home run in the seventh off Carlos Marmol, which ended his scoreless-innings streak at 23 1/3.

The Marlins used eight different pitchers in the game, who apparently were inspired by Dontrelle Willis' performance on Tuesday. The Chicago fans in the crowd of 19,051 at Dolphin Stadium, which included comedian Bill Murray, might be getting a little anxious. The Cubs aren't nervous.

"I don't know what I expect the fans to do," Theriot said. "We just have to continue to do what we can, and we just have to play ball and not worry about anything else; can't worry about what the Brewers are doing. Personally, I expect the Brewers to win every game the rest of the season, and if we match them, we'll be in pretty good shape."

Rain the last two days has kept the Cubs hostage in their hotel. They also haven't been able to take batting practice on the field.

"Where in the heck is that Florida sunshine?" Piniella said. "That's not an excuse either. We just didn't play well. I think we're trying to make spectacular plays, and we don't have to. A couple plays out there are basically routine, and we tried to overdo, and it cost us some runs and cost us the ballgame."

The Marlins now are 5-0 against the Cubs this year.

"They're not going to lay down -- I don't think any team is going to lay down," Marquis said. "They have a lot of real good young talent on the team. You have to be careful and do the right things to get the 'W.'"

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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