ST. LOUIS - OK, so the parallels to 1969 are a little overdone.
But on the 39th anniversary of the "Black Cat Game" at Shea Stadium, the 2008 Cubs displayed some of the same traits as that '69 crew did when it lost a big lead in the standings.
The Cubs blew a 3-0 lead Tuesday night at Busch Stadium, with Albert Pujols tying the game at 3-3 in the sixth with a homer off Ryan Dempster. Cesar Izturis' fielder's choice checked-swing grounder scored Brendan Ryan from third base with the winning run in the ninth, giving the Cardinals a 4-3 walk-off victory. Afterward, Cubs manager Lou Piniella let loose. The Cubs fell to 86-58 with their eighth loss in nine games.
"We're playing like we're waiting to get beat," Piniella said as he stood behind his office desk, his voice rising. "You don't have enough big of a lead in September to play ball like that. Teams that play baseball like that invariably get caught no matter how big their lead. You've got to stay aggressive. You've got to do the things that you've done all year.
"We're not executing. We're making mistakes, and we're getting beat. And I'm getting tired of watching it, to be quite honest with you. That's not the way we played all year to get to where we are now. And I know we're trying. But truthfully, trying isn't good enough."
After taking a couple questions, Piniella went back to his talking points. The Cubs took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on RBI doubles by Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Ryan Theriot tripled in the third and came home on a Ramirez single.
The Cubs had chances to score. But Piniella had Goevany Soto attempt a bunt with a man on first and nobody out in the eighth. That turned into a double play. Alfonso Soriano bounced into a double play in the ninth.
"We had many chances today again; we had many chances Sunday in Cincinnati, and it's the same result," Piniella said. "If we had played ball like this all year, we wouldn't be here playing for a championship. We'd be playing a spoiler role for somebody else. And I know we're trying. I've got no complaints with the effort. You've got to get the job done.
"We can talk about having fun. We can talk about relaxing. You've got to get your (darn) shirts rolled up and go out and kick somebody's (butt). That's what you got to do. Period. Period. That's all I got to say."
Dempster saw Piniella's point, to a point.
"We've just got to go out there tomorrow and try to win a baseball game," Dempster said. "Have fun. We're putting pressure on ourselves to do more than we're capable of doing."