Cubs closing the gap on most, but not the Cardinals
Overall, the Chicago Cubs have been exciting to watch this season. Leading the league in walk-off wins will do that, but the level of play on the field has been so much better than in the past few years. But the St. Louis Cardinals slapped a little bit of reality back into the Cubs this weekend, adding three games to their lead over them and letting them know their time isn’t yet. Will the Cardinals EVER have a bad year? It doesn’t feel like it.
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Cubs skipper Joe Maddon said it best after being swept in the three-game set. The Cubs, full of youth and talent lack one critical component that the Cardinals have.
"“Our inexperience showed up this week,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “They’re being schooled a little bit.” h/t Jesse Rogers, ESPN"
The Cubs got schooled more than a little bit, it was a lot. Joe was kind to his team. The Cards gave them a taste of their own medicine with a walk-off win in extras on Friday after Jake Arrieta looked masterful through eight. And the bullpen has been solid this season, this was a case of the Cardinals getting into the Cubs heads.
To make sure the Cubs knew their place, the Cardinals laid a beatdown on Donn Roach in his Cubs debut as he lasted just 3 1/3 innings while allowing four runs in an 8-1 loss. In then in a rain-delayed finale the Cardinals put the Cubs away with a 4-1 victory. If you’re counting, that’s five in a row they’ve lost. And they’ve scored just six runs in that streak.
The Cardinals are on pace for a ridiculous win total. .500 baseball the rest of the way would give them 95 wins. This is just what the Cardinals do. Hacking the Astros aside, that has nothing to do with their “next man in” approach that seems to always work.
This does set up Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer for more clarity as the trade deadline nears. Realistically, the Cubs need to be playing for the Wild Card. All you have to do is make the postseason and you have a chance. But they can assess their chances of that a little more clearly and take the Cardinals out of the equation.
But that battle looks to still for the most part remain in the NL Central with the Pittsburgh Pirates. As a fan, seeing your team 11 1/2 games back is disheartening until you look around and realize you’d be in the thick of almost EVERY other division battle. The Cubs are in the toughest division in baseball and holding their own, but still have a ways to go.
The sweep hurt, but there are plenty of things for the Cubs to take from it, and I believe Joe Maddon will use this recent stretch as a critical teaching tool. I caution you to remember that this wasn’t supposed to be the year, it was in all likelihood next season. So if the Cubs can sneak a Wild Card spot and get an opportunity for postseason baseball, I’d call that gravy on the plan.