The Cubs have played three times since they officially fell from playoff contention Tuesday.
The results have not been pretty.
Tom Gorzelanny was pounded for seven runs in three innings Friday, and the Cubs' bats stayed silent again. The outcome was a 12-3 loss to the D-backs that pushed the Cubs' record since elimination to 0-3. In those games, Chicago has been outscored by a combined total of 24-5 by Arizona and Pittsburgh.
"You don't like to get beat up like we have been," manager Lou Piniella said. "These teams we're playing, they're swinging the bats well and they're nice and healthy. They got their same players on the field that started the year, and we're quite the opposite. But still, that being said, there's no excuse for going out there and getting whooped on either."
That's exactly what happened Friday, on a cold, drizzly afternoon at Wrigley Field. D-backs starter Billy Buckner, who came in with a 6.59 ERA, put up zeroes for the first six innings, while his team mounted a huge lead.
Gorzelanny (7-3) was 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his previous four starts but struggled from the get-go. Ryan Roberts led off the game with a triple, Stephen Drew singled him home, and Mark Reynolds added a sacrifice fly one out later. Chris Young came up next and walloped a fastball onto Waveland Avenue to make it 3-0.
It got worse in the third, when the D-backs loaded the bases with two outs on a pair of singles and a walk. Rusty Ryal then promptly emptied them, driving a double into the left-center field gap. Eric Byrnes followed with an RBI single to extend Arizona's lead to 7-0.
"I couldn't make pitches and I tried to throw a strike, but if you leave it over the plate, guys will hit it," Gorzelanny said. "There's nothing I could really do about it. It happens, and it's not the way I wanted to go out, but not everybody goes out there and deals every day. They go out there and try to do their best, and sometimes this stuff happens."
The lefty exited after allowing seven runs (six earned) in three innings, pushing his season ERA to 5.55. Still, Piniella said Gorzelanny will be "in the mix" for a rotation spot come Spring Training.
"I just want to spend the offseason getting ready and working hard and being ready to take a job next year," said Gorzelanny, who came over from the Pirates in a July 30 trade.
Buckner (4-6) allowed three hits through six innings before the Cubs got to him in the seventh, starting the frame with three straight hits, including Micah Hoffpauir's pinch-hit RBI double. Buckner left after 6 1/3 innings but was charged with three runs when Aramis Ramirez hit an RBI single off reliever Blaine Boyer and Jake Fox followed with a run-scoring groundout.
"[Buckner] was throwing four pitches for strikes, and whenever you're throwing four pitches where you want to throw them, it's going to be a tough day," said Fox, who struck out twice against Buckner. "Until Micah's at-bat, he didn't make a whole lot of mistakes. That's what you hit as a hitter. You go up there looking for a mistake, and when he doesn't make mistakes, there's not a whole lot you can do with it."
The D-backs extended their lead against the Cubs' bullpen. Byrnes hit a solo homer off Jeff Stevens in the sixth, an RBI single off David Patton in the seventh and a two-run shot off Aaron Heilman in the ninth. He was one of two Arizona hitters to finish with four hits, along with Young.
After their breakthrough in the seventh, the Cubs went down in order in each of the last two innings. They have two games left against the D-backs to try to end the season on a positive note, and Fox said there is plenty of motivation, despite what the standings say.
"It's more or less an audition for where we're going to be at next year, so you come out here and give everything you've got to try to show what you can do and go from there," Fox said.
"Maybe some of the older guys are just trying to push through it, but we're out here trying to show them what we can do and give everything we've got so we leave a good impression in their minds, so that come next year, we have a better chance of making the squad."