The most interesting game of musical chairs involves the bullpen. Rookie Jeff Samardzija could win a battle over veteran Bob Howry.
Manager Lou Piniella has been hot and cold on Howry much of the second half, coinciding with Samardzija's call-up from the minor leagues. Samardzija had struggled of late but appears to have righted himself.
Asked whether he'd look at the entire season or at who was helping the Cubs recently, Piniella said it was the latter.
"I think we're going to have to go with people who are throwing well now," he said. "I think we'll lean more in that direction."
If the Cubs keep 12 pitchers for the first round of the playoffs, both Howry and Samardzija could make it. Not out of the woods yet is Chad Gaudin, who is returning from a back injury suffered in late August. Gaudin committed an error and gave up four hits and four runs in Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the Mets.
METS 6, CUBS 2: Sean Marshall pitched five creditable innings, giving up four hits and two runs. But the bullpen allowed the Mets to break a 2-2 tie in the sixth, as Gaudin gave up four hits and four runs, and Kevin Hart allowed a hit. Kosuke Fukudome had an RBI double in the second, and Reed Johnson drove one home with a single in the third.
--Fukudome got a start against Mets LHP Johan Santana. The left-handed-hitting Fukudome had an RBI double his first time up and later singled.
"We're going to play him and see if we can get him some at-bats and get him swinging the bat well for postseason," Piniella said.
Fukudome had been benched for much of early September because of a prolonged hitting slump.
--3B Casey McGehee started in place of Aramis Ramirez and had a double. Piniella rested several regulars. McGehee, a rookie and a longshot to make the postseason roster, has three hits in 13 at-bats with four RBIs since coming up.
--Marshall, Tuesday's starter, will go back to middle relief this weekend in Milwaukee. Piniella indicated Marshall will make the postseason roster as one of two left-handed relievers. The other is Neal Cotts.
--Gaudin is trying to return from a back injury he suffered at the end of August. Piniella didn't like what he saw, as Gaudin allowed four runs while retiring just one batter.
"His location is not good," Piniella said. "We're going to keep pitching him and keep getting him work, but I don't see the good sink, and I certainly don't see the location."
--RHP Carlos Zambrano, coming off a season-low 1 2/3-inning outing Friday against the Cardinals, starts Wednesday against the Mets. Expect Piniella to stick with him for a while.
"He needs a good workday, so we're going to let him go," Piniella said. "Hopefully, he's nice and sharp."