Last night’s loss to the Nationals was quite awful when viewed in an entirely internal context (four-run lead blown), and when viewed within the day’s context (the Cubs basically punted game one so that they could win game two, and, d’oh). But when you place it within the broader context of the divisional race, it gets even worse.
That’s because the Brewers won again, thus shrinking the Cubs’ divisional lead to just 2.5 games … where it was when this 23-games-in-23-days began.
Now, the Cubs enter a Sunday afternoon game – after a late doubleheader and before traveling – needing to win to avoid a four-game series loss, and risk coming home to face the Brewers with only a game and a half separating them.
We knew this 23-game stretch would be tough, and we knew that was going to be especially true at the tail end of the road trip part. And when you throw in ridiculous weather and decision-making that screws up the schedule further (much tougher when you’re the team on the road), and the Cubs do have a number of decent excuses available to them for how yesterday’s doubleheader went and how today’s game might go.
… still. Nobody is interested in excuses at this time of the year. Not with so much to lose at stake. The players won’t offer them and most fans wouldn’t listen if they did. These guys want to find a way to win as much as we want them to. Hopefully they can do that today, and then head home to be modestly refreshed before facing the Brewers in what is shaping up to be the series of the year.
I know this is what following the sport is all about. A tight divisional race in September is – in theory – a great thing. But as you’re experiencing it, you feel like you’re constantly trying to clear marmalade out of your lungs.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals got walked off on again by the Tigers, so they’re still 5.0 games behind the Cubs. The Dodgers also lost, though, so the Cardinals maintain their 1.0-game lead for the second Wild Card spot. If you’re a terrible and paranoid person, you should know that the Cubs’ “lead” in the Wild Card race is basically insurmountable at this point (6.0 games over the Dodgers). In other words, if the worst happens and the Brewers pass them in the division, the Cubs will still make the playoffs as a Wild Card team.
Not that anyone is rooting for that outcome.