There was really nothing “good” to take away from last night’s 9-0 loss to the Royals. It was quite poorly played all around, and it was a missed opportunity for a win over a bad team, which a good team should get 60+% of the time. The Cubs won the series, but they didn’t look good doing it, have been mediocre and unhealthy since the break, and headed into an off-day with a thunderous plop.
… but you know me. I have to at least provide some context. The Cubs went 13-3 before this latest stretch of mediocre. This kind of thing happens every year for good teams. And if you alternate great stretches with merely mediocre ones – as opposed to truly awful ones – you’re going to be just fine.
Even this 4-3 stretch against the Padres and Royals really isn’t that bad. It’s a .571 winning percentage (that’s really good!) in a tiny sample, and it suddenly becomes a very good stretch if they flip one game. When your entire emotional take on a couple series could be turned by a single game, then you’re probably digging in a little too deep. I’m guilty of it, too, because I was pretty ticked early on last night. The morning sunlight is often the antiseptic to my madness.
Oh, also: these seven games came at the tail end of a 21 games in 21 days stretch. That’s tough sledding for any team.
The Cubs now enter a much less kind stretch of opponents, and the rhythm of the schedule doesn’t get much better. Brace yourself.
The Cubs get three off-days between today and the 20th, which is solid, but in between, they play the resurgent Nationals, the hot as heck Brewers, and the still-going-for-it Pirates. Worse, the Cubs thereafter face 23 games in 23 days, the last 14 of which come against the Braves, Phillies, Nationals, and Brewers. And 11 of those are on the road. My God.
If there were ever a time when you hope the team is very healthy – with all of Kris Bryant, Yu Darvish, and Brandon Morrow back – that’s the stretch for it. It could be brutal.
So, if you see Joe Maddon continuing to rest guys aggressively in the coming days, hopefully you’ll remember that he’s doing it with an eye on what’s looming ahead. These final eight games against the Brewers could very well wind up deciding the NL Central, and they’re surrounded by very difficult games on all sides.
Hopefully, some of Maddon’s annual second-half magic will kick in for this stretch of games, and the Cubs not only hang onto their divisional lead, but use these matchups as an opportunity to create space.