After Tuesday's game, a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, Piniella said the team was playing "like we're waiting to get beat" and that it didn't have a "big enough lead in September to play ball like that."
Did the Cubs get the message?
"The message basically is the right one," Piniella said Wednesday. "Like it or not like it, it's the right message. You've got to play. When you can't play baseball in September, when you don't play well in September, no lead is safe. I've seen a lot of big leads dissipate. You've got to win baseball games, period.
"There's toughness involved and confidence involved. You've got to play, you've got to win -- what can I say? It's unfortunate, but it's the truth."
The Cubs entered Wednesday's game having lost eight of nine games. They're hitting .251 in the eight losses and the starting pitchers have a 5.00 ERA, giving up 25 runs over 45 innings, while the bullpen has a 6.41 ERA.
"It's coming at the wrong time, quite frankly," Piniella said of the funk. "There's still time to turn this thing around and finish up strong. Things that we've done all summer to help ourselves we're not doing now."
Piniella also noted that the Cardinals' "big guys" came through on Tuesday. He did not target any one player in his tirade.
"My comments last night were 'team,'" Piniella said. "I always look at team. When we talk about team, myself is included. We've just got to do a better job of executing, we have to do a better job defensively. We've had a good year, let's just finish it up. To do that, you can't sit back and expect and wait. You've got to make it happen.
"These teams are all trying to knock you out. It's not like we're going to get a free pass where we go. You've got to have mental toughness to do it. You've got to believe in yourself, and you've got to be tough. You've got to make things happen as opposed to waiting for things to happen. That was basically my message last night, worded a little differently."
Part of Piniella's message Tuesday was that the team needed to kick some butt.
"What's wrong with that?" he said Wednesday. "What do you put the uniform on for? You put the uniform on to compete and win baseball games, that's what you put it on for. That should be the intended purpose, right? That's all I meant. I didn't get on anybody, I said I was getting effort and I had no fault with it. But you've got to go out and win baseball games. Teams I played on, that won world championships, that's exactly what we did."
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said he didn't have a problem with Piniella's comments.
"Everybody gets frustrated," Hendry said Wednesday. "Lou's no different than he's ever been. We've had a few snags before, we had one after the All-Star break. We've played well for 135 games. I feel confident we'll play well the last 18. Put it behind you. The next game you win, yesterday's over."
The Milwaukee Brewers beat Cincinnati, 4-3, on Wednesday to close to four games of the Cubs in the National League Central.
"We're still in the driver's seat and have our own fate in our own hands, and I'd be surprised if we didn't play much better the rest of the way," Hendry said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.