Cubs manager Rick Renteria was calm but clear: This kind of performance simply isn't acceptable.
Chicago lost 9-2 to Toronto on Tuesday night when Jose Bautista hit a go-ahead, three-run double in the seventh inning to help the Blue Jays rally for the victory.
"We just have to play better baseball," Renteria said. "That's probably the worst game we've played all year."
The Cubs lost their fifth straight game and dropped to 64-81, putting them one defeat away from a fifth consecutive losing season.
"It's been a tough five-game stretch," Renteria said. "Today we lost one that really got ugly."
The Cubs closed their clubhouse for a brief meeting following the game.
"No one likes losing, but no one likes losing the way that game ended up," Renteria said. "It just steamrolled. It would be foolish for us to ignore it, say it didn't happen."
Renteria didn't fault his team's effort, but felt the need to speak out after the Cubs coughed up eight runs in two innings.
"We have to regroup, totally regroup and get our minds back around playing the game a certain way," he said.
Jake Arrieta, who allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings, echoed his manager's message.
"We need to continue to refine our craft as a team and get to that point where the focus part of the game is just second nature," Arrieta said.
After Kevin Pillar's one-out single off Arrieta in the seventh, Neil Ramirez (2-2) came on to face pinch-hitter Colby Rasmus, who singled. Pinch-hitter Munenori Kawasaki walked to load the bases before Ramirez fanned Jose Reyes. Bautista worked the count full before clearing the bases with a double into the left-field corner.
Toronto pulled away with a five-run eighth against Brian Schlitter and Blake Parker.
Bautista said Ramirez was "cornered" once the count got to 3-2.
"He had to make a decision whether to challenge me or try to go with an off-speed pitch," Bautista said. "I just placed my bet that he was going to challenge me. He did throw a fastball in the zone and I was able to connect."
Mark Buehrle (12-9) allowed two runs and 10 hits in seven innings to stop a six-start winless streak, helping the Blue Jays improve to 6-2 in September.
Aaron Sanchez pitched the eighth and Daniel Norris finished for Toronto, which came in five games out in the AL wild-card race.
Chicago's Javier Baez doubled and scored on Jorge Soler's sacrifice fly in the first, and the Cubs made it 2-0 in the fifth on Welington Castillo's third hit of the game.
Toronto cut the deficit in half in the bottom half when Ryan Goins doubled, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out bloop single by Reyes. An errant pickoff throw by Arrieta sent Reyes to third, but Bautista flied out.
CRIME DOESN'T PAY
Castillo threw out Pillar trying to steal second in the fifth, the 10th runner he's thrown out in 12 attempts since Aug. 12, and his 23rd of the season. Cubs catchers have thrown out six of the past seven runners trying to steal.
CLOSER TO 200
Buehrle inched closer to extending his 13-year streak of pitching at least 200 innings, boosting his 2014 total to 182 with three starts remaining. Manager John Gibbons has indicated he would consider using Buehrle out of the bullpen following his final scheduled start to help him reach the milestone for a 14th time.
Cubs: Renteria said 1B Anthony Rizzo (back) felt fine after taking grounders and hitting in the cage Monday, allowing him to repeat the activities Tuesday. Renteria cautioned, however, that Rizzo is still dealing with "limited parameters."
Cubs RHP Kyle Hendricks (6-1) faces RHP Drew Hutchison (9-11) in Wednesday's series finale. Hendricks went 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in August, winning the NL Rookie of the Month award, and then opened September by beating Milwaukee.