Piniella Not Thinking About Magic Numbers

Even though his team has a magic number of four to clinch the NL Central title, Cubs manager Lou Piniella doesn't want to hear about it.

"I don't like all this talk of clinching until we clinch, to be honest with you," he said. "I like to get things done, and then we can talk about all the positives of it."

The two biggest positives will be that Piniella can rest some of his regular position players and set his rotation for the playoffs.

Shortstop Ryan Theriot is one player who could use a breather. Theriot faded badly down the stretch last year, and this month, he's batting .229 (11-for-48).

During the recent break for Hurricane Ike, first baseman Derrek Lee seemed to benefit most, as he came back with a fresh bat.

If the Cubs clinch a postseason spot, rejuvenated ace Carlos Zambrano is the likely Game 1 starter in the Division Series, with Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster following. That's how Piniella wanted to draw it up, and if the weather holds and no doubleheaders are needed, that's what he'll get.

BREWERS 6, CUBS 2: RHP Jason Marquis gave up three runs in the first inning, and he had a string of three consecutive quality starts snapped. Marquis lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving six hits and three runs. RHP Angel Guzman gave up the other three runs in the seventh. Cubs hitters couldn't take advantage of an early exit by Brewers RHP Ben Sheets, who left after two innings because of a tight right forearm. 3B Aramis Ramirez hit a solo homer off Sheets in the second, but the Cubs managed just six hits all night.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Chad Gaudin (lower back soreness) threw Tuesday in Arizona, and Piniella said Wednesday the results were just "so-so." Piniella said Gaudin would need to face hitters at least one more time before the Cubs can determine if he can come back.

--Marquis hadn't pitched since Sept. 6, and he may have been rusty.

"Any starter will tell you they like the routine of getting the ball every five days," Marquis said. "Sometimes outside circumstances don't allow it."

Piniella attributed Marquis's troubles to a pair of first-inning walks. Marquis is most often the starter who gets skipped for non-health-related reasons. He lasted 5 1/3 innings Wednesday against the Brewers, giving six hits and three runs.

--3B Aramis Ramirez hit his 25th homer, giving him six straight seasons with at least 25 home runs and seven overall. He also has 300 RBIs at Wrigley Field.

"I hit the ball good tonight, and we still lost the game," he said.

Ramirez has a nine-game hitting streak in which he's batting .444 (16-for-36).

--RHP Randy Wells made his Cubs debut, working a 1-2-3 ninth. Wells came up Sept. 9. The Cubs lost him to Toronto in the Rule 5 draft last winter, and he pitched in one game with the Blue Jays in April before being returned to the Cubs organization.

--RHP Rich Harden starts Thursday's finale against Milwaukee. He beat the Brewers 11-4 on July 31, striking out nine. However, Harden's velocity has dipped as of late, and he struck out only three at St. Louis last week. The Cubs are taking it easy on Harden's troublesome right shoulder, but they don't have him penciled in as one of the top three starters for the postseason.

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