Since the last we spoke, the Cubs haven’t really pulled away from the rest of the division as they blew multiple opportunities to blow the games wide open with the bases loaded and have suffered some setbacks with pitching. But somehow, they still managed to come out of their final series against the Cardinals with the division lead, and now how 18 games remaining to secure one of the eight playoff positions in the National League. Let’s take a look at what is left:
- 3x at home against Cincinnati
- 3x in Milwaukee
- 2x at home against Cleveland (flanked by their final two off days)
- 3x at home against Minnesota
- 4x in Pittsburgh
- 3x on the South Side vs the White Sox
It is not a stretch to tell you that I have no idea of a great number of things in the remainder of this season. This Cubs team has been fortunate that the division rivals are so flawed in their own ways and said rivals are also beating up on each other. But I also believe that the team is too talented to be playing as absurdly badly as we’ve seen them over the past few weeks. I suppose we can go with some train of thought, with the following bullet points in no particular order of importance:
- Will the hitters please start hitting the ball more on a line and in the air instead of grounding it all the time?
- Will the Cubs properly utilize and rearrange their best hitters in the lineup, or just keep the lineup as is and hope the guys get hot? It isn’t like they have tons of options in South Bend, so these are they guys you have to ride with, but maybe mix it up some?
- Will the pitching sort itself out, especially Jon Lester (ineffective lately), Tyler Chatwood and Jose Quintana (please recover from your injuries and pitch well)?
- Can the Cubs just hit as well as they do when they load the bases, when the bases are actually loaded?
The top two teams in each division make the playoffs automatically, while best two records from the league’s remaining teams will join them as wild cards. The Cubs and the Cardinals are the only teams in the Central with winning records, so it would be a while before the North Siders slip out of playoff position. What we would prefer, though, is that the Cubs go in strong rather than just hanging on for dear life. And what that entails is a more effective adjustment of their offensive strategies as well as more confident performances from the pitching staff. The two off days surrounding the Cleveland series at home should give them some time to rest and heal, but ultimately, whoever is healthy and playing will have to perform.
And if nothing else, maybe the same issues plaguing this team for what seems like forever since the 2016 World Series (which the Cubs won) will spur ownership and the front office into action. Or maybe it won’t because they’re being cheap again. In that case, do what I do and turn off the game and watch something else, it’s not worth being too angry about anyway.