Can the Chicago Cubs thrive with a dangerously shorthanded bullpen?

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Can the Chicago Cubs continue their recent surge given the bevy of injuries that have left Joe Maddon with no clear ninth-inning answer moving forward?

Coming off back-to-back walk-off wins in front of the home faithful, the Chicago Cubs entered Thursday winners in nine of their last 10, clinging to a half-game edge in the National League Central.

They’ve managed claim the second-best winning percentage in the entire league, despite falling flat on their faces in the season’s first week or so. Chicago lost each of its first three series, including a sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves from April 1-4. But from mid-April on, they’ve looked like the club that’s made the postseason in each of the last four years, including three-straight NLCS berths and a 2016 World Series championship.

The experienced starting rotation has been nothing short of lights-out. Anchored by the likes of 35-year-old Jon Lester and former Cy Young finalist Kyle Hendricks, the staff carries the third-lowest ERA in the National League (3.39). If not for missing time with a hamstring injury (and thus, not having enough innings accrued), Lester would lead all of baseball with his 1.41 ERA in his first six starts.

Meanwhile, the offense trails only Los Angeles in runs scored (scoring 194 to the Dodgers’ 216 – playing five fewer games to this point) and sets the pace in the Senior Circuit with an .812 OPS through the season’s first 34 games. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are all hot at the dish with Milwaukee coming to town for a three-game set starting Friday.

So why is there cause for concern in Wrigleyville? Because the guys waiting on the other end of the the bullpen phone aren’t exactly a star-powered group.