The Cubs are seeing just how far they have yet to go these days.
And they'll see some more the rest of this week.
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No sooner did they get done playing one first-place team -- the San Francisco Giants -- they'll get another over the next four days in the nation's capital when they play the Washington Nationals.
The Cubs again were just good enough to lose Sunday, falling 7-5 to the Giants as closer Carlos Marmol battled a spate of wildness to give up 2 runs in the ninth as the Giants broke a 5-5 tie.
RBI singles by ex-Cub Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro after a pair of walks made the difference, as the Giants won the final two games of this three-game set.
"We came up a little short in two of the games, but I thought the guys for the most part put together some good at-bats off some really good pitching and did a nice job off some of the best pitching in baseball," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum, whose team fell to 51-82 and is on pace to finish 62-110.
"When they get to some of those matchups late in the game, especially those September call-ups, they put you in a bind with the three lefties in the bullpen and the righties they have, too.
"That's good for our young guys to look across and see that's a championship-type baseball team that we have to somehow put together, too."
Various Cubs managers have said things like that for years, but the goal has proved elusive.
Sunday's starting pitcher, Travis Wood, hopes to be a building block toward better days. Wood was in line for a victory as the Cubs held a 5-3 lead in the sixth inning, but Sveum went to reliever Manny Corpas with two outs and men on base, and Corpas allowed the tying runs to score.
"We're doing everything we can," said Wood, who got a no-decision and hasn't won since July 6. "We're grinding out at-bats. We're playing great defense right now.
"The wins will come. We're a young team, just getting experience and learning the game and slowing it down and figuring out what you've got to do.
"But we'll be there."
The Cubs trailed 3-1 but went ahead with 4 runs in the fifth against Matt Cain, mostly on Alfonso Soriano's 25th homer. The 3-run shot went deep to left-center.
Soriano also made a nice catch in left field against the wall in the fourth on a ball hit by Cain. As one of the veterans and harder workers on the team, Soriano knows what the Cubs are up against with all the young players.
"We have to finish strong because the season is not over," he said. "We have a lot of young guys. We have to teach them how to win. It doesn't matter if we don't make the playoffs. We have a lot of good things here."
In case anybody forgets how far there is to go, they can just look over at the other dugout this week at Nationals Park.
"We haven't been very good on the road," Sveum said. "We're playing two really good teams (Nationals and Pirates on the trip) and then we go to Houston. We're going to see the best team in baseball the next four days.
"Even though we're going to miss (pitching phenom Stephen) Strasburg, we're still going to see four quality starters and a heck of a lineup that they can throw at you.
"Everybody in that lineup is capable of hitting 20 home runs and swinging the bats really well. We've got our hands full the next seven days, really."
At least the feeling will be familiar.