The Cubs are doing their best to suffocate

Things were going pretty well for the Chicago Cubs on the morning of September 7th. They had just finished the San Francisco Giants’ season by defeating them in three games at Wrigley, leaving San Francisco 5.5 games behind the Cubs and 2.5 games out of the wild card spots. The Cubs, meanwhile, were just two games behind the Brewers for the NL Central lead and the Phillies for the wild-card lead, both leading to home games in the Division Round. They were 23-11 in their last 34 games, they had a Cy Young finalist in Justin Steele, they had newcomers like Jordan Wicks who came right in and contributed. It all came together.


The Cubs have gone 2-7 since then, and perhaps worst of all, five of those losses have come against the Arizona Diamondbacks, another team the Cubs could have gambled on and who effectively earned themselves a wild-card berth with two weeks to go. secured place. Instead, they lost five of the two teams’ six games, and now Arizona is as close to their ass as a sore thumb.

Last night’s loss is the kind that will be on fans’ minds at the end of the day for the next decade or two, if fans can get that excited about wild-card spots. The Cubs took the lead four times, including three times in extra innings, and still lost in 13. Their big boogeyman of late couldn’t have kicked them harder, giving them the big game-opening blow. In the 10th there were runners on second and third with no outs. They got a run. In the 11th they had two runners, one of whom scored a run. That’s all they would get. In the 13th they had runners on 1st and 3rd with no out. They got a run.

To put it another way:

Lately, the Cubs’ offense has been all Cody Bellinger, Seiya Suzuki and Nico Hoerner can do and nothing else. You might be surprised to learn that only one of those hitters in the top three of the lineup is hit by manager and glue-sniffing enthusiast David Ross.

There was some bad luck because Jeimer Candelario wasn’t doing well after coming from DC and he needed a backiotomy. This means that Nick “Make A Wish” Madrigal took the most ABs from third place. He hit .286 in September.

However, Ross doesn’t help. Mike Tauchman has managed to parlay his month of May built on diabolical BABIP betrayal into a regular role despite being terrible for weeks and providing average defense at center at best. The Cubs’ No. 1 prospect, Pete Crow-Armstrong, sits on the bench most nights, even though he could provide Gold Glove-level defense in the middle at worst. Alexander Canario, another top prospect who had roiled the minors, also became one with the wood in the dugout while various Cubs hitters thrashed during his time with the club.

That’s not the only concern, as the bullpen has become a bit questionable. Closer Adbert Alzolay hit the IL with a forearm strain, which is usually the trigger for ominous organ music. Last night, the Cubs used two converted starters out of the box in Drew Smyly and Marcus Stroman, both of whom took the lead. Right now, Julian Merrywether is the only reliever they can trust since everyone else has had an ERA of double-bogey or higher in the last month. And it’s not like the Cubs can count on tremendous length from their starters, who have two rookies in the rotation and also pyrotechnic cataclysm James Taillon.

The Cubs should still be fine, although they probably thought so before this stretch. And actually, their recent bout of buffoonery might help them. This week they will close out the Wrigley portion of the season against the Pirates and Rockies, which should be a welcome result (although they just lost two of three games against Colorado). The final week of the season will go to Atlanta to see a team that already has everything under control, and then it’ll wrap up with three games in Milwaukee against the Brewers, who have probably locked up the division themselves and their rotation for the Division series will determine the season… which could well end against the Cubs. If the Cubs hadn’t swallowed their tongues over the last two weeks, these three games before I-94 could have meant a lot more and resulted in them having to deal with the Brewers’ best starters. Much less likely now.

It will be exciting. Arizona and Cincinnati are only half a game behind, and the former can overtake them by completing the sweep today. The Marlins are half a game behind. From here, Arizona only plays dead teams (Giants, Yankees, White Sox) before ending the season against the Astros – who at least perhaps still have to worry about winning the AL West. The Reds’ schedule isn’t much stricter (MIN, PIT, CLE, STL). The Marlins have two series, with the Mets interspersed with sets against the Pirates and Brewers. There is no real advantage there.

That’s what the MLB wanted by expanding the playoffs, letting teams stumble over each other with big mistakes, get off track and at times go in the wrong direction to get to October. But the final two weeks will count for all of these teams, so buckle up and enjoy the cracking finals.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky The Cubs are doing their best to suffocate

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