Ugh. It’s almost too painful to take stock right now, thinking through the possibilities. But when you lose two of three to the Reds in late September, this is the bed you make for yourself.
The Cardinals beat the Nationals again, so the Cubs fell to 3.0 games back of the Cardinals entering their four-game series at Wrigley Field this weekend. Realistically, with just six games left after this weekend (even with three of them against the Cardinals), the Cubs have to win three of four to shrink that gap to just 1.0 game. That would at least give them the chance to tie atop the standings by the end of the season if they can win the final series in St. Louis, regardless of what happens in the intervening series (Cubs against the Pirates, Cardinals against the Diamondbacks).
Split this four-game series? Then you have to sweep in St. Louis if you don’t get any help. *Lose* this four-game series? Division hopes are done.
But that’s not all!
Thankfully, the Brewers lost, so at least the Cubs are still tied with them in the Wild Card. But, here’s the thing: the Brewers have a cake schedule from here (Pirates, Reds, Rockies), so even if the Cubs didn’t have to beat the Cardinals this weekend to try to catch up in the division, they *WOULD* have to beat the Cardinals this weekend to keep pace with the Brewers!
Throw in the Nationals, who are 1.5 games up on the Cubs/Brewers, but get to face the Marlins this weekend, and it’s all the more reason for the Cubs to need to win this weekend.
In other words, whether it’s the division or either spot in the Wild Card race, the Cubs’ playoff hopes are going to lean in a very fundamental way upon their ability to beat the Cardinals in three of four games this weekend.
I wouldn’t put it past the Cubs, of course, because they do this kind of wild vacillating all the time. But we can’t reasonably predict anything. It’ll play how it plays, and by the end of this weekend, I think we’ll have a better sense of how plausible the various outcomes are going to be.
It starts with just winning the dang series, and that starts with winning tonight. Against Jack Flaherty. Who has been absurd in the second half (even better than Sonny Gray, who just pantsed the Cubs).
It’s better to be in this terrible situation than already eliminated, though, right? RIGHT!?!?!?!?!?