Chicago Cubs will be battle-tested down the stretch


The road to the postseason won’t get any easier from here on out. With six full weeks remaining in the season and only two homestands left, the Chicago Cubs have their work cut out for them.

Here’s what we’re looking at – 33 games, 25 against the N.L. Central, 17 on the road, and 14 against teams that will likely make the playoffs. Oh, and let’s not forget that included six against the St. Louis Cardinals – who hold the best record in baseball – and seven with the Pittsburgh Pirates including a doubleheader on September 15th.

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The race for home-field in the wild card isn’t a complete loss yet. The seven remaining games against the Bucs will happen the final three weeks of the year with a makeup against the American League leading Kansas City Royals thrown in as well.

The recent streak of wins by the Cubs was a sight to behold. It seemed during that stretch that everything was clicking. Kyle Schwarber hit everything in sight while Anthony Rizzo found the long ball with his bat and currently stands with 26.

Jon Lester quietly put up the numbers we were expecting all year and Jake Arrieta has decided to toss his hat in the ring for N.L. Cy Young award after finishing the month of August with a 6-0 record and a 0.43 ERA. He also pitched a no-hitter Sunday evening.

Some can call the West Coast road trip a bust. Maybe the young kids are starting to feel the pressure going up against two other playoff caliber teams?

I will take stock in that theory as long as the injury bug can be blamed as well. Just before the winning stopped, Jorge Soler and Jason Motte both took residence on the disabled list.

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Despite his streakiness, the loss of Soler’s bat and his ability to protect other guys in the lineup has hurt the team.

Although he has been dressed, the nagging injuries, including the shin, has forced Dexter Fowler to miss a couple of starts. During the streak, Fowler was typically the table setter and catalyst throughout big innings for the Cubs.

The beginning of this final stretch with be crucial for setting the tone. A six-game homestead against sub-.500 teams with an emphasis on “must-win”.

This time of year, if teams are going to be for real in October, they must take care of business against the weaker opponents. It will be business as usual, so it’s time to find out if these guys can be as loose as they were in March.

After all, that’s the mindset Joe Maddon preached in spring training.

If the Cubs battle through and reach the postseason, we can look back and know that they earned it in the final weeks of the regular season.

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