PHOENIX — Considering the Cubs are teetering on the brink of elimination, left-hander Ted Lilly slamming his glove into the mound after yielding a three-run homer to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chris Young might be the lasting image from a sour October.
‘‘I’ve never seen a pitcher throw their glove like that on the mound,’’ manager Lou Piniella said late Thursday night, minutes after the D-backs closed out an 8-4 victory over the Cubs to open a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
The two teams take a day off Friday in Chicago before resuming play with Game 4 on Saturday at Wrigley Field. Maybe by then, Lilly will have cooled off.
‘‘I think me showing my frustration there is the fact it is the biggest game I’ve thrown all year,’’ a still-intense Lilly said before the Cubs boarded their red-eye to Chicago. ‘‘My expectations were higher than what I did today.
‘‘I have zero excuses. The fact of the matter is, I didn’t get the job done. I guess if I wanted to, I could come up with some excuses. I guess I could come up with some bull [bleep].’’
Lilly lasted just 3 1/3 innings, allowing six runs and seven hits. He labored through the first inning, finding it tough to find the strike zone. Lilly said he was ‘‘certainly excited’’ taking the mound for this start but said he didn’t think that had anything to do with his poor command in his worst start since signing that four-year, $40 million free agent deal last winter. In fact, until Thursday, he was 9-1 in starts after a Cubs loss.
‘‘I certainly want to get another opportunity at this and redeem myself and help the team,’’ he said. ‘‘You look over the season, and I could care less how many games I won. Winning here is what it’s all about. This is not going to be easy to swallow.’’
Of Lilly’s 25 pitches in the first inning, 13 were strikes.
‘‘He was behind a lot of the hitters,’’ Piniella said. ‘‘He wasn’t getting his breaking stuff over. He was fighting himself a little bit out there, too. He wasn’t sharp.’’
But it wasn’t all Lilly. The Cubs’ bats couldn’t keep pace with the Diamondbacks. Look at these numbers: 4 for 32 (.125) with 12 strikeouts. Those are cleanup hitter Aramis Ramirez’s hitting numbers against the Diamondbacks in eight games in 2007 (six regular season and two playoff games). All-Star first baseman Derrek Lee fared only slightly better, going 2-for-8 with four strikeouts.
‘‘I’m not doing anything,’’ Lee said. ‘‘I have to find a way to do something. I haven’t hit, obviously. We’re disappointed. This is tough.
‘‘We can’t lose now. It’s do or die for us.’’
This is a familiar position for Lee, and one that he can actually look onto as a positive memory. During the 2003 season, his Florida Marlins were in a 3-1 hole against the Cubs and reeled off three consecutive victories to reach the World Series.
‘‘It can be done,’’ Lee said. ‘‘You don’t think about three. You get a win and move on. You don’t look at it as we need three in a row. You look at it like we need to win Saturday.’’
Are the Cubs pressing?
‘‘It’s hard to say,’’ Lee said. ‘‘We want to win. We’re giving it all that we have. If you call that pressing, we’re pressing. We’re just not hitting. That’s the bottom line.
‘‘We’ve been kind of funny all year offensively. We can break out for seven runs or we have a couple of games like this.’’
Aside from the pitching questions and second guesses the first two games, the key numbers might be these: 6-for-43 (.140) with 15 strikeouts. Those are the hitting numbers for the 1 through 5 spots in the Cubs’ lineup in two games, including 1-for-20 in Game 1.
‘‘I think people forget those are the guys that got us here,’’ said second baseman Mark DeRosa, who batted sixth and seventh in the two games. ‘‘It’s just a matter of time, hopefully. And the rest of us in the lineup have to pick them up, too.’’
It’s not like the rest of the lineup was particularly hot, considering the Cubs managed just 12 hits in two games. Leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano, coming off a sizzling September, has always been a disappointment, with two hits and four strikeouts in 10 at-bats.
‘‘We’re not doing nothing at all to win these games,’’ Soriano said. ‘‘We have to do better at home.’’
Game 4 starter Rich Hill is either showing his youth or taking the right approach, but he seems unfazed by the deep hole the Cubs have dug for themselves.
‘‘For me, my game plan is to do everything I’ve done all year long — stay aggressive and attack,’’ Hill said. ‘‘I know this sounds funny, but you have to look at this as a positive. We’ve been digging ourselves out of holes all season long.’’