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Chicago Cubs still looking to find the right combinations

Sep 17, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs left fielder Chris Coghlan (8) is congratulated by first baseman Kris Bryant (17) after hitting a two RBI home run during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 17, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs left fielder Chris Coghlan (8) is congratulated by first baseman Kris Bryant (17) after hitting a two RBI home run during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Cubs have 13 games left to play in the regular season. Joe Maddon is resting starters occasionally while looking for the combination that will peak in the playoffs.

The Chicago Cubs have the benefit of two weeks to figure out their playoff roster. Manager Joe Maddon will be mixing and managing until the final out as he plots his 25-man NLDS roster. There is nothing exact about the science in putting it together. But the hope is it all clicks in October.

Outside of a thrilling extra-inning win on Friday to help celebrate winning the division, the offense failed to come through when given opportunities. Sunday’s game seemed to showcase that as the Cubs threatened often–but scored just one run on a misplayed ball in center. And this wasn’t because Maddon was sitting the starters. They were in there. But they failed to get the big hits.

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Last year it was guys like Jorge Soler, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez doing their part. Don’t forget, Addison Russell missed part of the playoffs last year. A hamstring injury in Game 3 against the Cardinals took him out the rest of that series–and then missed the NLCS. Baez and Soler could once again be x-factors, but they also are players that have been counted on this season.

The Milwaukee series saw a healthy dose of the bench players, and several did their part. Chris Coghlan had a three-hit game and a two-run home run in another. Miguel Montero continued his resurgence with the walk-off home run in Friday’s contest. And Albert Almora had three hits in the series including a home run as well.

Smaller rotation doesn’t mean more spots

While the Cubs aren’t using a full rotation in the NLDS, they won’t take any fewer pitchers. So there won’t be any “extra” spots for positional players. Versatility will be a deciding factor, but so will matchup. This is where the expansion of the rosters in September can be a bit cruel. The Cubs have more than enough role players that have played well. But when you have to trim it back down to 25–good players will be left out.

Next: Cubs clinch division, prepare for playoffs

While the Cubs wait to see who their opponent will be following the Wild Card game, Maddon will continue to try new lineups. 13 games aren’t likely to be enough to change his mind. But he’s also looking for a player to get hot at the right time. Those are the ones he’s looking for. Those are the players the Cubs need.

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