Chicago Cubs: Critical five-game set at Wrigley opens second half action

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

With their biggest lead of the year in the Central, the Chicago Cubs must avoid the pitfalls that can arise in a five-game set against a quality division rival.

The Chicago Cubs closed out the first half of the regular season on a high note. Joe Maddon‘s club won 12 of its final 15 games, taking over first place in the National League Central.

Obviously, when you play that kind of baseball, good things usually happen. But the team the Cubs spent the first few months looking up at in the standings, the Milwaukee Brewers, did themselves no favors. Milwaukee closed out the first half with a five-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on the road.

At first glance, it seemed like just another meeting between division foes. But the Pirates didn’t just win the series – they swept all five games, helping turn a 2 1/2 game lead in the division into a 2 1/2 game deficit in less than a week. And, while it seemed like Milwaukee was always on the fringe of the Manny Machado sweepstakes, missing out on him seems like a much bigger deal given how the team closed out the first half.

As for the Cubs, they welcome the rival St. Louis Cardinals to Wrigley to kick off the home stretch of the season. This includes a day-night doubleheader on Saturday – although Mother Nature seems likely to play a big role in this series given the forecast.

Regardless of weather, the Cubs need to avoid the same result experienced by the rival Brewers. Five game series, especially over four days, come down to execution and mental focus. Rested and recharged, here’s what they need to do this weekend to come away with a series win.