Russell Martin belted a tiebreaking grand slam to power the Dodgers to a 7-2 victory on Thursday over the Cubs, who lost for the 10th time in their past 14 games.
The loss, coupled with St. Louis' 5-1 win over the San Diego Padres, dropped Chicago to seven games back in the NL Central. The last time the Cubs were at least seven back was June 30, 2007, when they trailed by 7 1/2 after a loss to the Brewers. They rallied under Piniella, then in his first year in Chicago, to win the division by two games. But they had three months then. Now, they have 43 games.
"I'm not even looking at where we're at," Piniella said of the standings. "I'm trying to see about winning some baseball games."
Remember how the Cubs talked on Wednesday about a sense of urgency?
"We've dug ourselves a little bit of a hole," Piniella said, "and the only way to get out of it is by winning with some really good consistency."
Martin delivered a knockout punch in the sixth. With the game tied at 2, Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake each singled against Angel Guzman (2-3), and one out later, James Loney was intentionally walked to load the bases for Martin, who launched the first pitch -- a cutter over the middle -- into the left-field bleachers.
"I made a bad pitch and paid for it," Guzman said. "I haven't been able to get my job done the last two times. I know Lou will keep bringing me in the game. I'm just going to try to go out there and perform."
Piniella said he felt Guzman's pitches had flattened out a little in recent outings.
"I'm just making bad pitches, that's all," Guzman said. "I have to make the right pitch in the right situation."
Tom Gorzelanny did not get a decision in what may be his last start for the Cubs. He gave up two runs on five hits over five innings before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the sixth. The lefty will likely be replaced in the rotation by Carlos Zambrano, who threw 76 pitches in five scoreless innings of a rehab start on Thursday night for Class A Peoria.
"It was a positive outing," said Gorzelanny, who settled down after the first couple of innings.
The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead in the first, and Fukudome tied it with his 11th home run, connecting with one out in the second off starter Jeff Weaver. Fukudome belted 10 homers last season, his first with the Cubs. His season high in Japan was 34, set in 2003.
Rafael Furcal hit a RBI single in the second to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead, but the Cubs tied the game in the third on Aramis Ramirez's RBI single, driving in Milton Bradley.
The Dodgers chose to intentionally walk Fukudome to load the bases, and face Alfonso Soriano and Jeff Baker. Weaver struck both out.
"We took a chance and it didn't work," Piniella said about the decision to walk Loney to load the bases for Martin. "The amazing thing is they took the same chance to walk a hitter, and they get a strikeout, and we get a grand slam."
It's not unlike other losses the Cubs have suffered this season.
"That's what happens when you don't score runs," Aramis Ramirez said. "You've got the pitching, and we don't hit with men in scoring position, that's what we deserve. If we don't score runs, that's what we deserve.
"We've got guys in here who are better than what we're doing right now. I can't explain it. We just didn't get it done."
The chances of a three-peat in the Central are slipping away.
"Obviously, it is right now," Ramirez said. "We're seven games out with St. Louis winning tonight. I don't know how many games out we are in the Wild Card. We have to win games the rest of the year and see what happens."
There have been a lot of changes since the 2008 NLDS. The only players who started Thursday who were in the NLDS Game 3 lineup were Ramirez, Soriano, Derrek Lee and Ryan Theriot.
"Nobody's giving up," Ramirez said. "Everybody's going out there and trying to do their best. That's the bottom line -- we don't score runs, we don't win games."
Gorzelanny is hopeful.
"We need to get moving and, as a team, find our groove," the lefty said. "I don't have any doubt we'll do that. I've played against this team for so many years. These guys always do it. I'm not worried about turning this around and winning some ballgames and making it worthwhile at the end."