CHICAGO Rich Hill loosened up his arm and legs during a light workout Friday, not far from where the ivy on the Wrigley Field walls is beginning to turn from green to brown.
The Chicago Cubs' season will fade away, too, if they don't find a way to escape an 0-2 deficit against the Arizona Diamondbacks today.
Against the young, eager and talented Diamondbacks, the Cubs will count on Hill, hope their top hitters find their strokes and rely on a home crowd that is always raucous.
"We're in a good position here coming home," Hill said. "We get to play in front of a great crowd, some of the best fans in baseball. We're down 0-2, but we have a great advantage going into this series in these next two games.
"Like I said, you've got to look at it from a positive standpoint not, oh, we're down 0-2."
But another loss and the No. 99 pops up 99 years since the Cubs' last World Series title. And counting.
Manager Lou Piniella brought the 1995 Seattle Mariners back after losing the first two games to win three straight from the Yankees.
"It can be done," Piniella said. "It would be nice to win three games in one day, but it's not going to happen."
Strong pitching from starters Brandon Webb and Doug Davis and Arizona's bullpen has stifled Chicago's offense, especially the big hitters in its lineup. Now the Diamondbacks will turn to veteran Livan Hernandez, who 10 years ago was the MVP of the Florida Marlins' World Series win over the Indians. He also started Game 7 of the 2002 World Series for the San Francisco Giants against the Angels.
So, bring it on. He's been through loud and wild scenes during his career.
"The stadium is going to be packed and crazy and people screaming," said Hernandez, who hasn't pitched in a game since Sept. 26. "I think it's great for baseball. I love it. It's something I like, see the people screaming."
In the two losses in Phoenix, the Cubs' first four batters went 5-for-35 with 13 strikeouts. So while Piniella has taken heat for pulling Carlos Zambrano after six innings with the game tied at 1 in the opener and Ted Lilly was driven out early in Game 2, the Cubs' bats also wilted in the desert.
Alfonso Soriano is 2-for-10, Derrek Lee 2-for-8 and Aramis Ramirez 0-for-9. The trio has no RBIs or homers. Piniella's advice is to go with the pitch.
"It's probably trying to overdo. You don't need to hit three home runs in one bat. They pitch away, hit the ball to right center," Piniella said.
"You don't want to be relaxed because people are struggling because you never know when those guys will come back and start hitting the ball," Hernandez said. "It's something that I've got to do the same job that the other guys do. I know the frustration now for the Cubs is difficult."
One player who knows the Cubs and who spent parts of the 2000-2003 seasons with them is Diamondbacks second baseman Augie Ojeda, who's getting his chance after an injury to Orlando Hudson.
The fans at Wrigley Field use to chant "Aug-gee, Aug-gee" for the 5-foot-8 Ojeda. He probably won't get that today.
"The fans kind of took me under their wing. It's a special feeling coming back," Ojeda said. "They've been dying for a winner, so they're going to go out there and give them the best support they have. We just have to go out there and keep playing our game."
For Hill, keeping the ball in the park will be a big deal. Arizona has three homers so far, including a go-ahead shot from Mark Reynolds off reliever Carlos Marmol in Game 1 and Chris Young's three-run homer that caused Lilly to slam his glove to the turf in disgust Thursday night.
"You don't change your approach or the way you're going to pitch," Hill said. "All of a sudden, I'm not going to become Sandy Koufax, and Nolan Ryan's not going to show up and start pitching the game for me. ... It's just a game, as simple as that sounds."
But for the Cubs and their long-suffering fans it's a big one. They spent $300 million in the offseason in a major restructuring, overcame a slow start and captured their first division title since 2003 on the final weekend.
"Look, the team finished last in the division last year, the most losses in the National League and here we are in the postseason in one year," Piniella said. "If that's not a success, well, I really don't know what it is."