During a batting-cage discussion with Cubs coaches Friday morning, ex-Cub Lenny Harris jokingly referred to Wrigley Field as "Ghost World."
The idea that the Cubs are haunted in their North Side home may be an old wives' tale, though booing is certainly a familiar sound at Wrigley these days.
They're now 31-33 at Wrigley Field, despite being on a record attendance pace.
"That happens," said Nomar Garciaparra, who played third base in place of the injured Aramis Ramirez. "I've been on teams that way too. Baseball is hard to explain. Sometimes that happens to good teams."
And it happens frequently to the Cubs too.
After falling into a 7-0 hole, the Cubs bounced back with a five-run sixth inning and had the tying runs on base in the eighth. But Todd Jones struck out Derrek Lee to end the inning, and the Cubs fell to six games under .500 at 61-67, tying their low-water mark.
"I had my opportunities and didn't get them across," Lee said. "But if we play like this, I like our chances."
The Cubs are in fourth place in the NL Central, one game ahead of Cincinnati.
Garciaparra voluntarily moved to third, but it made no difference as the Cubs continued their August free fall. He worked out there for manager Dusty Baker on Thursday and made his first appearance at third since high school, becoming the 103rd player the Cubs have used there since Ron Santo was traded to the White Sox 32 years ago.
"I think everyone on this team is doing everything they can," Garciaparra said. "Aramis is out for a while, so as a team we have to come together and do whatever it takes to win ballgames.
"Unfortunately, you've got to experiment in the middle of the season, but with all the injuries and all the stuff this team has gone through, that's what you do. You've got guys like [Kerry Wood] going to the bullpen and doing stuff. It says a lot about this team, and a lot about the guys on this team. No one has given up."
Garciaparra said before the game he expected the Marlins to test him immediately by bunting.
"I'm sure they'd do that regardless of whether I was there or not," he said. "That's part of their game."
Sure enough, one of the game's big plays came on Juan Pierre's bunt in the third with the Marlins up 2-0 and starter Jason Vargas on first with no outs. Pierre bunted sharply to the left side, where Garciaparra fielded the ball quickly and looked for a potential force at second.
But shortstop Ronny Cedeno had moved to his right, and second baseman Neifi Perez had run to cover first, leaving Garciaparra with no where to go but first. His errant throw went wide for an error, allowing Vargas to advance to third.
"Kind of a strange [play]
I should've held onto that ball," Garciaparra said. "But it's a fun experience, a learning experience."
Baker said it was a perfectly executed hard bunt by Pierre.
"That's a play you never seea slug bunt," Baker said. "Ronny is going to try to get the ball, and Neifi is covering first base when he saw [Pierre] square around to bunt. Nomar [looked at] second, and nobody was there. Then he went to first.
"[Lee] was trying to retreat to first and Neifi was trying to get to second base, and [Garciaparra] kind of threw it in between them.
How are you going to practice for a slug bunt, especially with the speedy Pierre going?"
Jeff Conine followed with a run-scoring single to center, and the Marlins added another run on Miguel Cabrera's double-play grounder.
The Marlins knocked Glendon Rusch (5-7) out in the fifth and increased the lead to 7-0 on Miguel Cabrera's two-out, two-strike, two-run double off Michael Wuertz in the sixth. The Cubs' offense awoke with a five-run sixth off Vargas before hitting the snooze button one more time.
Marlins 7, Cubs 5