As far as losing streaks go, the Cubs had really racked up a doozy: eight losses, including a road stretch where they scored only five runs in six straight games. And then when the Cubs did figure out the offense, their pitching betrayed them, and they lost 10-8 to Pittsburgh. (Yes, to Pittsburgh. The Pirates. The woeful, tiny-payroll Pirates, who are now somehow only two games behind the Cubs in the NL Central. Go figure.)
The Cubs snapped out of the losing streak Tuesday night -- thank goodness for rain-shortened baseball -- but the larger problems are systemic. The Cubs are very injured. The few players playing consistently are, for the most part, not hitting well. If you were inclined to admit this isn't the year, you could be forgiven.
Manager Lou Piniella? He's keeping the faith. Even if his disposition usually looks like an especially grumpy Jack Nicholson, damn it, he's keeping the faith:
"We've got to keep working," he said. "Invariably, we're going to get healthy. We just have to keep working to improve our team and straighten out a few things that go wrong for us. If we can do that, and get healthy, we'll put in a nice stretch of baseball."
How's the Cubby swagger?
"It's not swaggering very much," Piniella said. "But look, which team does swagger when they're in an eight-game losing streak? One thing you can't do is give in to this thing. You've got to keep fighting. You've got to believe you can get through it."
Lou said that he doesn't need to have a tantrum to get the team "going," which is absolutely correct; players don't automatically start feeling healthy and spry and suddenly improved just because their manager throws third base at an umpire's shoes. The only thing that will get the Cubs through this mess -- and to the heights they set out on before the season began -- is work. Hard work. Players have to work to figure out their swings, and they have to work to get healthy. Anything else, and all the optimism in the world won't do much good.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.