Thank God today is an off day. The Chicago Cubs and their fans could use one after the series sweep at the hands, bats, arms and gloves of the St. Louis Cardinals. On the year, the Cubs are 2-7 against their biggest rival and are 11.5 games behind the redbirds who have a Major League best record of 51-24.
After the series between the two clubs in May, I stated that watching this series showed us exactly how far the Cubs had to go before they would be a serious contender for the division crown, let alone the World Series. After the Cubs lost three of the four games, I went on to say that watching that series was like watching men vs boys, to which I was soundly criticized. Then something funny happened. Joe Maddon basically said the same exact thing the following day.
Maddon on Cards series: “They out-competed us, in a sense, experience wise. That’s it. And we will make that up.”
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) May 7, 2015
Maddon saw the same things that I saw in this series. While the Cubs are an exciting and fun team to watch, they are not quite on the same level as the Cardinals. They lacked the experience that the Cardinals possess, and that was something they would make up in time.
Enter in this three game series, the Cardinals once again showed the Cubs and their fans that they are on a completely different level. They have the experience that the Cubs sorely lack at the moment. They know how to win, something the Cubs are still learning how to do. Sure, the Cubs have nine walk off wins, a slew of one run wins, but there is a difference in the way the two clubs play the game.
The Cubs have no quit in them, they fight until the 27th out because they believe they can win any game. They believe that the are never out of any ball game and can come back no matter how far down they are.
The difference is, the Cardinals do not believe they can win every game; they KNOW they can win every game.
The Cardinals do not fear any team in baseball, and haven’t for several years. Year in and year out, they play every season as though the World Series is theirs to lose. They have the confidence, the swagger and the ability to dominate any team that crosses their path. Unfortunately, after the Cubs play the New York Mets and the Miami Marlins, once again they will be in the sights of those dreaded Cardinals with another four game series.
Currently four games over .500 after a five game losing streak which started with the last two games of the four game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cubs might be facing their first trip under .500 this season if they are not able to turn things around quickly.
Granted, the Cubs swept the Mets in a four game series in May, but they are still going to be a tough opponent in New York. Winning the series is a must, but once again sweeping them would be even better. Losing the series, or being swept would put the Cubs closer to that .500 mark than any of us would feel comfortable with.
Thankfully though, after the Mets and before the Cardinals, the Cubs get to play host to the Marlins who are a pretty bad team; but a bad team that won two of three from the Cubs a month ago. Perhaps their fortunes will change with hosting the fish this time around.
Then, however, once again the time has come to be brought to school by the Cardinals who have the Cubs (and pretty much everyone else’s in the Majors) number.
The Cubs are seemingly miles behind the Cardinals in the standings, and winning this series is a must if they want to have any chance of winning the division, and those chances are currently on life support. In all honesty, the Cubs just might not have enough to catch the Cardinals and will have to hope to be in contention long enough to win the Wild Card.
In order to do that though, the Cubs will probably need to make a trade for another pitcher or two. Starting pitching after the top three has been a huge question mark. Tsuyoshi Wada is on the disabled list, Kyle Hendricks is very inconsistent and Donn Roach is still a complete unknown. Adding at least one is a must if the Cubs want to reach the postseason, and get past the Wild Card play in game.
Strengthening the pitching staff will not do much good however, if the bats do not come to life for the Cubs. In the four game series with the Cardinals, the Cubs only scored three runs. You are not going to win many games if you only score three runs, let alone series.
The good news is, Jorge Soler will be back sometime soon, Mike Olt might not be too far behind him and Javier Baez has resumed baseball activities as he has headed to Arizona to begin his rehab. These three men will give the Cubs a shot of sorely needed offense. You can call for the return of Kyle Schwarber all you want, but until Miguel Montero is no longer on the team, I am not sure he has a place. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer want him to stick at catcher, so chances of seeing him in the outfield likely will not happen.
The bad news, if the Cubs do manage to win one of the two Wild Card spots and do win that game, there waiting for them will be the Cardinals. Yup, the Cubs will have to immediately face the best team in baseball after winning the play in game. You knew you would have to beat the Cardinals if you wanted to reach the World Series, you just would have hoped to delay that meeting until the League Championship series with the hope some other team could have knocked them off.
Perhaps with a stronger pitching staff (which was not really an issue this past series) and a stronger offense the Cubs will be able to win three of the five games in the divisional round. But going off of their regular season success rates against them, I am not so sure I like the Cubs chances.
The Cubs have a lot to learn about the game of baseball. They are a young team, a team of kids who are still trying to figure out how to win at this level. The Cardinals are just the better team at the moment. The Cardinals are just playing the role of the big brother who take advantage of the younger, less experienced sibling.
But even though the older brother beats the younger brother nine times out of 10 (or with the Cubs vs Cardinals seven times out of nine), that still leaves that one time.