Chicago Cubs: The 2018 season has been full of ‘what-if’ moments

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CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 14: John Lackey #41 of the Chicago Cubs kicks the dirt in frustration after the St. Louis Cardinals scored a run during the third inning after a throwing error by Ben Zobrist #18 (not pictured) at Wrigley Field on August 14, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 14: John Lackey #41 of the Chicago Cubs kicks the dirt in frustration after the St. Louis Cardinals scored a run during the third inning after a throwing error by Ben Zobrist #18 (not pictured) at Wrigley Field on August 14, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

As we head into a winner-take-all Game 163 on Monday at Wrigley Field, one questions dominates Chicago Cubs fans’ minds: ‘What if?’

What if the Brewers had just lost a few more games? The Brewers have been insanely hot as they head into the postseason. In September, the Brewers and Chicago Cubs saw a lot of the same opponents.

Milwaukee swept the Cardinals before the Cubs took two of three from the Redbirds. How did St. Louis manage to get swept by the Brew Crew when they were literally fighting for their postseason lives? It marked a rare moment in which I rooted for the Cardinals. Before that, Pittsburgh beat the Brewers once. The Cubs lost to the Pirates twice.

What if the Cubs had won more games against the Brewers head-to-head? Again, the last couple of series against the Brewers stand out in my mind. The Brewers won four out of those six games. The first of those games was a 4-3 lost on Sept. 3. Craig Counsel used Josh Hader for 2 2/3 innings. The Cubs finally got to him when Anthony Rizzo hit a towering home run to right field. It was Rizzo’s second at-bat against him that day. But then Carl Edwards Jr. gave up the lead shortly after that. That feels like the moment when Edwards began to lose the strike zone. He walked two batters in that outing. What if Edwards wasn’t so wild down the stretch?

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What if they hadn’t lost all four games when the Reds swept them in a four-game series at the end of June? That series hurt a lot. At the time it felt like the low point of the season. The Reds finished the season with 95 losses. But they have a good offense. For a while they strung together a bunch of wins after they fired their manager, Bryan Price. This might have been one of those cases of ‘its not who you play, but when you play them.’

What if the Cubs had swept instead of just winning two out of three in their last series against the Reds, Diamondbacks or White Sox? Again the Reds picked up a win that means nothing to them this season. The Cubs offense only managed one run, and lost 2-1.

Then the offense came alive to win the next two games against the Diamondbacks. The Cubs had Cole Hamels starting for them in the last game of the series. But instead of starting their regulars, the Diamondbacks started a bunch of September call-ups. Arizona’s offense exploded in a 9-0 Cubs loss. Immediately after that Jose Quintana pitched against his former team. But the White Sox got five runs off of him including a home run by Kevan Smith.

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