Chicago Cubs: Playoff odds take a big hit following weekend sweep
By Jake Misener
The Chicago Cubs’ odds of a second-straight NL Central crown took a sharp turn downward after the Brewers swept them and the Cardinals won three-straight.
As if the Chicago Cubs suffering a sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers wasn’t bad enough, another division rival added injury to insult. The St. Louis Cardinals ran off a three-game sweep, as well, pulling within two games of the Cubs entering play Monday.
Just three days ago, Chicago boasted 90.1 percent odds of winning the National League Central. That’s as close to a sure thing as you can ask for this time of year. That is, unless you’re the Washington Nationals, who clinched the East over the weekend. St. Louis had just a 6.9 percent chance, while Milwaukee came in at a measly three percent.
But then the proverbial wheels came off.
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On Friday, the Brewers blanked the Cubs, 2-0. The real punch-in-the-gut came Saturday, though, when Milwaukee blew out the North Siders by a 15-2 margin. Chicago’s only tallies came late in the game once things were out of reach. Sunday proved to be no different offensively, as the Cubs scored just once in a 3-1 loss.
In the series, the Cubs’ bats managed just one run against Milwaukee starters. Chicago struck out 32 times this weekend and went 2-for-20 (.100) with runners in scoring position. On more than one occasion, it looked like batters were going up there knowing they were swinging no matter what. That doesn’t work.
Give credit to the Brewers. Craig Counsell lined up his starting rotation ahead of the weekend showdown, throwing his three best arms at the reigning champs. And it worked. They shut down an offense that had put up some big numbers recently. But the feast-or-famine approach once again sunk the Cubs.
"“Find a way to get it done,” Jason Heyward” href=”http://www.chicagotribune.com/topic/sports/baseball/jason-heyward-PESPT000010116-topic.html”>Jason Heyward told the Chicago Tribune after Sunday’s finale. “Nobody is going to care at the end of the year. It’s just are you in or out?”"
More than a few fans’ faith is wavering at this point. Chicago has just 19 games left, with the majority of them against either St. Louis or Milwaukee. The Brewers and Cardinals conclude the regular season with a three-game set at Busch Stadium.
Cardinals taking care of business
So while Milwaukee gave the Cubs a beatdown this weekend, the Cards swept the Pirates. That makes it five-straight losses for Pittsburgh, a team that has been erratic throughout 2017. But, with that sweep, they kept pace with the Brewers.
Both Milwaukee and St. Louis enter Monday just two games behind Chicago. And, both clubs saw their playoff chances tick upwards, as well. St. Louis received a 10 percent boost (up to 16.2 percent) in their division crown odds. The Brewers, still considered a longshot, went from three percent to 7.8 percent – even after sweeping Chicago.
The biggest change, obviously, comes from the Cubs. With a near nine-in-ten shot when the weekend started, the Cubs now have just a 76 percent chance to win the Central, according to Fangraphs.
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Those are still favorable odds – but with the Cardinals and Brewers both playing good ball and a ton of head-to-head matchups left on the schedule, it’s hard telling how this will play out. Perhaps Heyward said it best. The Cubs simply ‘need to find a way to get it done.’