Well, here we are in August, and we are stuck in Lincoln, Nebraska, because the stupid car decided to run into a mechanical problem. Thankfully it’s not the engine this time! It’s kind of funny how we are saying goodbye to Chicago just as the Cubs return home for seemingly most of the rest of the season. That bodes well for the Cubs as they enjoy a substantial home field advantage. According to Baseball-Reference, while the Cubs do have a winning record on the road at 29-26, they are much better at Wrigley Field with a 33-19 record. I suspect it has something to do with them having a state-of-the-art home clubhouse while the visitors are in a broom closet until next year, so some of this may dissipate starting in 2019. Having reinforcements in the form of trades (Jesse Chavez, Brandon Kintzler, and Cole Hamels have been impressive in their brief time with the Cubs so far) and guys coming back from the disabled list (in particular Kris Bryant, Yu Darvish, and Brandon Morrow) will hopefully give them a boost in the final months of the season.
Let’s take a gander at the schedule coming off their short series split in Pittsburgh…
- August 2-5: San Diego Padres at Wrigley
The Cubs had swept the Padres in San Diego earlier, and the Padres have traded away their best relievers in Brad Hand and Adam Cimber, so this should be an easy series on paper. However, I am hopeful the Cubs won’t take anything for granted and play to the best of their ability.
- August 6-8: Kansas City Royals at KC
The AL Central outside of the Cleveland Indians has been terrible this year, so it’s lucky that the Cubs draw this division as their interleague slate. The Royals, of course, have been early traders in moving Kelvin Herrera before also trading Mike Moustakas to the Brewers before the July 31 deadline. I suppose we will see how this goes, but this should theoretically be a series victory for the Cubs if they play up to ability. An off day follows this series.
- August 10-12: Washington Nationals at Wrigley
The Nationals are obviously still very talented, but in between their deal with the Cubs for Brandon Kintzler and waffling on whether to sell (including moving Bryce Harper before ownership apparently vetoed), the team has been underperforming up to the deadline in Dave Martinez‘s first year as manager. A lot of that is injury, although some of it may be Davey’s inability to maintain a cohesive clubhouse (I do find that difficult to believe, but losing does breed discontent). The lineup is dangerous but this team can be beaten. I’d expect the Cubs to win at least one, but I am not super confident in predicting a series victory here. The Cubs get another off day after this series.
- August 14-15: Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley
The Cubs and Brewers have been jockeying for first place in the NL Central most of the year (with the Cardinals occasionally threatening, but it might be curtains for the folks down south now). As of this writing, the Cubs are a game up, and I would say the Brewers have a slightly more difficult schedule leading up to this meeting. Of course we know how formidable the Brewers can be, but I still think the Cubs are superior. I’d expect at least a break-even split of this series, with the Cubs hopefully remaining on top of the division.
- August 16-19: Pittsburgh Pirates at Pittsburgh
Another set in Pittsburgh? Interesting. The Cubs should be able to win this series as long as they don’t do dumb stuff on the field like in the last Jon Lester start. An off day follows this series so they get a reset, and they will probably need it.
- August 21-22: Detroit Tigers at Detroit
Another one of those two-game sets, and the Cubs have already swept the Tigers at Wrigley, so this hopefully is another sweep. The AL Central is, again, quite terrible.
- August 23-26: Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley
The Reds have several All-Star quality starters in the lineup including Joey Votto, but they have lost Adam Duvall (and you might say, so what?). The Cubs have had their issues with the Reds, as have the other NL Central teams, so don’t pencil this in as a series victory just yet.
- August 27-29: New York Mets at Wrigley
The Mets are soooooo baaaaad and have literally run some of their players into the ground, including Yoenis Cespedes who is probably out until well into next season after requiring season-ending surgery. I think one would have to be disappointed if the Cubs did not win this series.
- August 30: Atlanta Braves at Atlanta
This is a makeup of one of the bajillion April rainouts. The Braves are pretty good, ahead of schedule, with a lot of good young talent, so this one is probably a tossup depending on who pitches.
- August 31 to September 2: Philadelphia Phillies at Philly
The Cubs defeated the Phillies at Wrigley, including a majestic walkoff grand slam by Jason Heyward, but the Phillies are the current NL East leaders and, like the Braves, ahead of schedule in their rebuild. Let’s call this one a tossup as well, although in the middle game of the series, both teams will get their September callups as rosters expand, which means we can welcome back guys like Randy Rosario.
- September 3-5: Milwaukee Brewers at Milwaukee
Another one in Miller Park, and who knows what will have happened before the August 31 waiver trade deadline?
- September 6-9: Washington Nationals at DC
Last one against the Nationals, and probably won’t see them again in October either. It is possible that the Nats sell off by August 31, so this will probably be a different team than the one the Cubs faced in the previous month.
- September 10-12: Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley
A bit far in the future to make too concrete of predictions, but the Cubs have owned Milwaukee this year, so let’s be optimistic. An off day follows this series.
- September 14-16: Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley
Hopefully the Reds have sold off even more by this point so they’re easier to handle.
- September 17-19: Arizona Diamondbacks at Phoenix
The Cubs split their Wrigley series against the Diamondbacks, and Arizona did add Brad Ziegler. Hopefully they can take care of another irritatingly pesky team. Cubs get another off day after this series.
- September 21-23: Chicago White Sox at 35th & Shields
Another “away” series but at home, the Cubs don’t have to travel too far from their own beds to battle their cross town rivals, who may or may not call up Eloy Jimenez in September.
- September 24-27: Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley
I forgot to mention that the Pirates picked up Chris Archer for the stretch run, so there’s a good chance they see Archer at least once before the season is up, either in this series or in the one in Pittsburgh in August.
- September 28-30: St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley
So the Cubs get to end the regular season at home against their historic rivals, who at this point are probably going to just play spoiler. It will be interesting to see if the Cubs are playing for their playoff lives or if they get to coast and set their rotation for the playoffs during this series. I hope for the latter.
With 107 games played, 55 games are remaining as of this writing, with 26 away games (although three of those are technically at home, and the three in Milwaukee are almost home games anyway). The schedule to end the season may be against a lot of teams that are selling, and the Brewers have to deal with the other NL contenders, including some of the NL Central rivals still fighting for their playoff lives. The Brewers do end the season against Detroit, so the hope is the Cubs get themselves in good position to not have to rely on the Tigers to avoid missing the playoffs. I would have to say that the Cubs are in pretty good shape and we should feel pretty good about them right now just based on the schedule.