The Cubs lost their third in a row last night, which, given the competition and the extreme stretch of winning that preceded it, doesn’t really get you too hot under the collar. The timing and opponents, though, were quite unfortunate. The first two losses came against the Giants, and the most recent loss came against the Dodgers, who could quickly become the Cubs’ next closest Wild Card competitor if the Giants were to pass them.
Moreover, the Cardinals kept on winning, pushing the Cubs’ NL Central deficit to 8.5 games. The good news there is that the Cardinals finally lost last night, so the deficit didn’t grow any larger.
The bad news is that the loss came against the Giants. Of course.
So now those Giants trail the Cubs by only 4.5 games in the Wild Card race. It’s still a very healthy lead, but you are reminded: the Giants have an extremely soft September/October schedule. By contrast, the Cubs have 13 games left against the Pirates and Cardinals. While that’s nice in terms of giving them an outside shot in the Central, it’s not so nice when it comes to strength of schedule.
I wouldn’t say I’m nervous about the Cubs losing hold of that second Wild Card spot, but I would say it’s far from a lock. You’d like to see the Cubs come out of this weekend, with the Giants playing two more against the Cardinals, at least stretching that lead just a bit. There’s nothing the Cubs can do if the Cardinals lay down, though. They’ll just have to take care of business today and tomorrow with Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta pitching.
As for the Pirates, they beat the Rockies, which puts them 5.0 games ahead of the Cubs – yes, the Pirates are now further ahead of the Cubs than the Cubs are ahead of the Giants (d’oh) – and 3.5 games behind the Cardinals in the Central. If you’re asking me, I’d probably rather see the Cubs play the Cardinals in the Wild Card game than the Pirates, so I wouldn’t mind seeing them move past the Cardinals down the stretch. If this becomes a realistic possibility in the coming weeks, I’ll get into the rationale a little more.