Cubs Begin September on Good Note

If the Cubs are going down, they're going down with a fight.

Wednesday's 2-0 victory over the Astros gave the Cubs their second series win in a row and improved their record to 67-64.

They're hopelessly out of race in the NL Central, and they're chasing four teams for the wild-card standings. So they're falling back on the one-day-at-a-time cliche.

"It's simple," said lefty Ted Lilly, the starting and winning pitcher Wednesday. "You've heard it 1,000 times. We don't have any influence on who wins the games that we're not playing. We go there and put all of our concentration and physical and mental energy into the game that we have to deal with, and we're putting ourselves in the best chance to win."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella pointed Tuesday to a huge drop-off in runs scored as the chief reason the Cubs will come nowhere near their 97-win season and division title of a year ago. The Cubs scored 855 runs in 2008. So far this year, they've scored 578.

First baseman Derrek Lee said the approach wouldn't change no matter the record or the place in the standings.

"Even if you are out of it, it's not like you roll over," Lee said. "You still play to win. There's only really one way to play. We're going to finish the season as strong as we can."

NOTES

--Lilly became the Cubs' second 10-game winner, joining RHP Randy Wells. He extended his winning streak over Houston to seven games. He also has recorded seven consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins. Over his last four starts, Lilly is 1-1 with a 1.32 ERA.

--Lee has 27 homers and 90 RBIs. It's his best season since 2005, when he hit 46 homers and drove in 107. Lee broke his left wrist in 2006. The recovery from that, as well as neck problems that cropped up in 2007, may have contributed to a power slide the last two years.

"Who knows?" Lee said. "I had two down years, but you need to keep going. People point to my power, but we made the playoffs each year. I think any player will tell you they'll trade their numbers for the postseason anytime."

--RHP David Patton, who had been on the disabled list since July 6 due to a right groin strain, was activated. In five rehab appearances with Class AA (Des Moines) Iowa, Patton went 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA in seven innings. The Cubs obtained Patton in the offseason from the Reds, who took him from Colorado in the Rule 5 draft. Patton is 3-1 with a 5.63 ERA in 17 games with the Cubs this year.

--RHP Carlos Marmol worked out of trouble of his own making in the ninth inning Wednesday to record his eighth save of the season. Marmol has converted five consecutive save chances, and the bullpen has a streak of 20 1/3 scoreless innings dating to Aug. 27.

--LF Alfonso Soriano, 3B Aramis Ramirez and SS Ryan Theriot each got the day off. Soriano has been nursing a sore left knee, and Piniella said the doctors have urged him to ease Soriano back into things after he had a cortisone shot Sunday. Theriot is 6-for-34 (.176) on the homestand.

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