SAN DIEGO—Lou Piniella was tinkering with his office computer Thursday at Petco Park, trying to find some solutions to his team's vexing problems.
But after discussing the lack of a consistent offense in depth before Thursday night's game, Piniella finally grew weary of the subject.
"I don't even want to talk about it anymore," he said with a laugh. "Let's get a different subject. Talk about some bikinis on the beach or something, surfers on La Jolla."
Well, turquoise seems to be the favored color on the San Diego beaches these days, and some delightful waves off La Jolla were most inviting to the surfing crowd.
As for the Cubs, they managed to scratch across two runs in the ninth inning on fielder's choice grounders to avoid a sweep with a 3-1 victory over San Diego.
"It felt good," Derrek Lee said. "We kept clawing and clawing, and Jason [Marquis] kept us in the game."
The rally began when Lee singled off Cla Meredith to start the ninth and advanced to third when Aramis Ramirez singled.
Lee scored the go-ahead run on Cliff Floyd's grounder to second, barely beating Marcus Giles' throw to the plate.
"That was really good hustling baseball by Derrek," Piniella said. "That's a heck of a slide into home plate. We were going on contact. He got a really good jump, and the throw was just a little high, which allowed him to get his feet in. Just good baseball."
After Michael Barrett reached on a bunt single, Ryan Theriot drove in the second run on a fielder's choice grounder to third that Kevin Kouzmanoff fumbled, spoiling the double-play possibility.
Marquis threw seven solid innings, allowing one run on five hits and inducing three double-play grounders.
"I just have to focus," Marquis said. "I used to let my emotions get the best of me and try to make perfect pitches."
Bob Howry (2-3) got the victory in relief, and Ryan Dempster entered in the ninth and threw a 1-2-3 inning to post his 10th save, his first since the confusion over his supposed switch into the rotation.
Piniella wanted his hitters to show more patience at the plate, but it was difficult to do so against a pitcher who was locating his pitches as well as Padres right-hander Chris Young.
Young struck out 10 while allowing one run on three hits over seven innings. He retired the first 12 batters he faced until Ramirez doubled leading off the fifth. Barrett's double tied the game 1-1, and the Cubs stranded Alfonso Soriano in the sixth after a leadoff triple, a recurring theme this week.
"I don't like to squeeze," Piniella said with a grin. "But we're going to have to start incorporating it into our offense."
The Cubs' lack of a consistency forced Piniella onto the Internet, helped by a Cubs publicist who looked up the stats Piniella wanted to see.
"We've been looking at this computer all afternoon, trying to figure this out," Piniella said.
His research showed the Cubs had scored six or more runs in 17 of their first 44 games, going 13-4, but averaged 2.9 runs per game in the other 27 contests, going 7-20.
"There's your answer," Piniella said. "We have to get more consistent scoring runs. It's hard to win with three runs a game—any team."
Some of the numbers make no sense, Piniella conceded.
The Cubs were second in the league in hitting and first in hitting with runners in scoring position.
They had outscored their opponents 208-183 yet were still four games below .500.
"We should be above .500 with a plus-25 run differential," he said. "If you score more runs than your opposition, you should win more games."
Piniella sat back in his chair and laughed out loud.
It seemed like such an obvious fact.
"I'm not really laughing, believe me," Piniella said. "But there are too many games when we've scored three or [fewer] runs."