Cubs fans, manager Lou Piniella stepped into your shoes for a few minutes before his team drilled San Diego 9-6 on Tuesday night.
Yes, riding an eight-game winning streak -- nine now -- and proud owner of the best record in the majors, Piniella nevertheless took a few minutes to look at the glass as half empty.
Hey, it's his job.
You think major-league managers can relax even if their club has held the lead in 25 consecutive games (and counting)? It's the Cubs' longest such streak since 1935. Yet. ...
"We've had a good problem here -- we've led 24 games in a row," Piniella said a few hours before the streak reached 25. "Which dictates that you're in the ballgame, and when you're in the ballgame, you have to use your better pitchers.
"That's what we've done, but there comes a time and a place where you have to back off a little bit, too. And we're about there."
It may sound silly, but sometimes, for the greater good of the long term, it's better if managers don't do everything they can to win in the short term.
Piniella was looking at that exact scenario Tuesday when he declared set-up man Carlos Marmol would not be used, even if the situation called for it. Marmol had pitched three times in four days, and four times over the past five days.
Marmol and closer Kerry Wood each had worked in 30 games, tied with two others for third in the NL.
As Piniella noted, "Look, it's a good problem to have when you're winning, but when you're winning you're using your best pitchers more."
Situations also are conspiring to tempt Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild to lean hard on their key pitchers -- too hard, Piniella worries. Eight of the Cubs' past nine games had been decided by two or fewer runs and dating back to May 17, 13 of their past 16 games had been decided by the same slim margin.
And, Tuesday's 9-3 lead melted to 9-6 with Padres on base in the late innings. Though Piniella stayed true to his word to avoid Marmol, he did summon Howry and, to close, Wood -- for his 31st appearance.
Though the Cubs owned the best record in baseball, their starting rotation -- currently Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis and Sean Gallagher -- ranked only seventh in the NL in innings pitched.
"Our starting staff is not what you would classify as an innings' staff," said Piniella, whose club had recalled right-hander Kevin Hart from Triple-A Iowa earlier in the day to add another arm to the bullpen. "That's why I like the idea of young kids with strong arms coming up here to help out."
Because as Piniella said, "I just can't try to sneak an extra inning (regularly) from my starters. I just can't. I've got to keep them going out there every five days."
After Jason Marquis went five innings -- and he needed 100 pitches to do that -- Piniella ripped through five different relievers trying to slam the door on the Padres. One of them was Michael Wuertz, whom the skipper had singled out before the game as one of the relievers outside of the Marmol-Bobby Howry-Wood circle to step it up.
Wuertz, 1-1 with a 2.96 ERA, has walked 12 batters (against 16 strikeouts) in 28 innings.
"We need Wuertz to kick it in some," Piniella said. "The walks are starting to be a problem. He's certainly better than what he's pitched.
"We'd like to see him get better to where we can count on him for an inning or two."
In the midst of a nine-game winning streak, it doesn't seem like that big a deal.
Measured against all of those innings left to be pitched the rest of this season, it is a huge deal.