Chicago Cubs: Calling this series ‘must-win’ isn’t that far-fetched anymore

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

After a horrendous showing this weekend in Washington, the Chicago Cubs are clinging to a mere two-game lead in the division as the Brewers come to town.

Pretty much anything that could have gone wrong this weekend did so if you’re the Chicago Cubs. Sure, they won the opener on Thursday – so maybe it’s not an absolute worst-case scenario. But, from there, it was all bad.

Friday’s game? The league decided to try to play, even though the radar was abundantly clear they’d never make the prerequisite five-inning threshold to make a game official. After several hours of delays, the game was postponed as part of a doubleheader on Saturday.

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The biggest problem? It burned Jon Lester‘s start. Instead, Chicago had to go with veteran Jaime Garcia in the first game of the twin-bill. He recorded just one out, walking three and serving up three earned runs. Of course, the Cubs went on to lose that game by a 10-3 final. The nightcap wasn’t much better, either. The bullpen faltered late as the Nats swept the double-dip.

Then, Sunday’s game was postponed before a pitch was thrown. That might not seem like a big deal, but it certainly is. It essentially stretches out this marathon-like stretch of games, erasing the team’s first off-day (originally scheduled for Thursday) since Aug. 20. Their next regularly-scheduled off-day? Sept. 20 – a full month later.

Brewers doing exactly what they need to do

With a postponement and two losses for the Cubs in the last three days, Milwaukee had a prime opportunity and they pounced, winning all three games this weekend. That means the Brewers come to Wrigley Field on Monday sitting just two games back of Joe Maddon‘s club. In other words, the three-game set means more than ever.

Chicago is battling all kinds of injuries – not having a day off isn’t helping matters in any way, either. But, since Lester barely broke a sweat on Friday, he’ll get the ball on Monday, followed by Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks – the three guys you want in such a situation, with the possible exception of Cole Hamels.

All season long, Cubs fans have criticized the Brewers’ apparent lack of impact starting pitching. But Milwaukee hardly seems concerned with what you, or anyone else, thinks about their roster construction. If you want at least a small glimmer of hope here, though, this team has stayed in the hunt by dominating at Miller Park (45-27). On the road, though? They’re just 37-35.

This three-game set at Wrigley offers Chicago a badly-needed opportunity to give themselves some more breathing room. A sweep could push the Brewers back to five games out in the division. But it’ll take all hands on deck to get it done.

If the Cubs fail to take care of business, the NL Central will get very sticky very quickly. Per Fangraphs, Chicago’s odds to win the division sit just above 80 percent. Heading into the weekend? 92 percent.

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It wasn’t a good weekend. But since Maddon came to the North Side, his team has always responded with its back against the wall. Do they have more late-season magic in their bag of tricks? We’re about to find out.