Cubs' Playoff Hopes Keep Fading

Piniella sticking with struggling vets (AP)

It's stating the obvious to say the Cubs have to get it going. But they stated it anyway Tuesday.

"We've got 40 games left, and we need to put together a streak," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella, before his team got throttled 15-6 by the lowly Washington Nationals. "We're at home. We've played well at home all year. We're hoping we'll have a good homestand."

The Cubs are nine games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central, and they're chasing five teams in the wild-card race, making that task even more daunting.

While the temptation is there for Piniella to regularly play some of the kids such as Jake Fox and Sam Fuld, he said he would stick with his veterans.

"We've got veteran players here that I expect to put on good finishes," Piniella said. "And we're going to play them. It's time for veterans now, and we'll see how they perform."

GM Jim Hendry echoed his manager's sentiments.

"We've really put ourselves in a bad spot," Hendry said. "Sixteen, 17 days ago, we were in first place. Now, we're eight back. We had a terrible two weeks. We need a great homestand to get back in it."

NOTES

--Bradley snapped an 0-for-13 skid Tuesday with a 4-for-4 night that included a homer and a walk. It's the second time this year he's picked up four hits.

--RHP Aaron Heilman was charged with only one run, but he allowed a grand slam to Elijah Dukes in the Nationals' six-run fifth inning. The Cubs bullpen gave up seven runs, with LHP Sean Marshall getting charged with three and LHP Tom Gorzelanny also allowing three.

--LHP John Grabow has not allowed a run in 11 appearances with the Cubs, covering nine innings. The Cubs obtained Grabow on July 30 in a trade with the Pirates.

--LF Alfonso Soriano was a late lineup scratch Tuesday because of lingering soreness in his left knee. The knee has bothered Soriano off and on since early this season. He saw a team doctor Tuesday night and said he might need an MRI although he said he would come out for batting practice Wednesday. He would not rule out offseason surgery but said he hoped to avoid it.

--The Cubs optioned RHP Esmailin Caridad to Class AAA Iowa as they activated RHP Carlos Zambrano from the DL. Zambrano lasted 4 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits and eight runs. He threw 95 pitches in the short outing. Zambrano did hit a home run. It was his fourth of the season and the 20th of his career, extending his Cubs record for homers by a pitcher.

--OF Reed Johnson took batting practice but said he is not able yet to run or jog as he recovers from a broken right foot, suffered July 29. He is at least two weeks away from returning.

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