"Yeah, we are right now," Aramis Ramirez said. "But last year at this time, Milwaukee was the same way and they didn't make the playoffs. So you can't take anything for granted. We have to go out there and keep winning games, keep winning series."
Though San Diego snapped the Cubs' nine-game winning streak Wednesday night with a 2-1 victory, the Cubs still managed to win the series.
Ted Lilly (5-5) was the tough-luck loser, getting out of jams in the sixth and seventh innings before the Padres brought home the go-ahead run in the eighth on Brian Giles' leadoff double and Kevin Kouzmanoff's sacrifice fly off reliever Carlos Marmol.
"The irony is that it's the best game we've had pitched in a long while," manager Lou Piniella said of Lilly's outing. "Their guy (Maddux) pitched equally well, just a tad better."
The Cubs managed only four hits against starter Greg Maddux and relievers Heath Bell and Trevor Hoffman, who struck out the side in the ninth to post his 12th save.
" 'Doggie' threw the ball good," Derrek Lee said of Maddux. "We just never could get anything going. It seemed like we made a lot of quick outs and he kept his pitch count down. That's the last thing you want with him on the mound."
Lilly allowed only two runs on seven hits over 71/3 innings and wriggled out of some self-made jams late in the game.
"I don't know what to say," Lilly said. "I made enough mistakes. I got out of some jams. It was one of those games where you can only escape so many times."
With the score tied 1-1 in the sixth, the Padres put runners on the corners on a double and a throwing error by Ryan Theriot. But Lilly struck out Kouzmanoff and induced Khalil Greene to ground to third, where Ramirez threw Giles out at the plate on a controversial call by plate umpire Bill Hohn. Geovany Soto lifted his foot and appeared to let Giles slide under him, but Hohn called Giles out nonetheless.
Lilly promptly retired Justin Huber on a fly to deep center. Lilly then stranded Michael Barrett on third with one out in the seventh, getting Scott Hairston to pop out before striking out Edgar Gonzalez.
Before the game, Piniella hoped Lilly could stem the tide with a decent outing after he had lasted only three innings in his previous start and had served up five home runs in his last two starts.
"Lilly is just giving up home runs," Piniella said. "… But one thing about him, he has found a way to battle and keep us in ballgames."
Hairston started the game off with a home run, but Lilly settled down and pitched his best game since May 9, a seven-inning, one-run outing against Arizona.