Despite a rocky showing so far this season, the Chicago Cubs are poised to enter the month of August at or near the top of the division once again.
There’s no denying that the 2019 season hasn’t exactly been of the storybook variety for the Chicago Cubs. Well, it hasn’t been a pleasant tale, to be more precise. Still, the team is right in the thick of things for the fifth consecutive summer.
We know that the Cubs have traditionally been a second half team under Joe Maddon. That could still prove to be the case again this year – it’s far too early to tell. But last weekend’s matchup with Milwaukee, where Chicago dropped two of three in dramatic fashion, has cast the team’s performance to-date under some fairly significant shadows and doubts.
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The Cubs enter Tuesday’s series opener in St. Louis tied for first atop the National League Central at 56-49. The fact the team finds itself in such a position is nothing short of amazing given their bullpen struggles, offensive inconsistencies and horrendous road record.
"“It’s tough to be on this end,” Anthony Rizzo told The Athletic (subscription required) after Saturday’s extra-inning loss to the Brewers. “We’re playing well. We got the guys out there that we want. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. Seems like when it doesn’t go your way, it pours on you at times in the season. It’s one of those stretches. You just gotta keep fighting and stay above it.”"
Since the All-Star Break, Chicago is 9-6 – but could easily find themselves at 12-3 or better had a few games gone differently. But that’s not how it works, as we all know. Of course, Saturday’s loss really hurt given the fact Craig Kimbrel coughed up the game-tying blast and eventual game-winner, as well. He was supposed to be the guy who kept games like this from getting away. For one night, though, that wasn’t the case.
Going into Busch Stadium and taking at least two of three from the Cardinals feels like a must. You hope that might give the Cubs some momentum heading into the weekend, when they return home to host the Brewers for three at Wrigley.
When it’s all said and done, this week-plus may very well wind up deciding who ends up on top of the National League Central. We saw last year just how critical one game could wind up being, when Milwaukee shocked the Cubs in a winner-take-all Game 163 in Chicago.
To avoid another disappointing end to the season, the Cubs have to improve on the road, where they are 20-31, the second-worst mark in the NL. After three against Milwaukee, Oakland comes to town for three more before Chicago heads back out on the road for a 10-game trip. During that span, they’ll face Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – three beatable ballclubs.
If Chicago drops the first two games in St. Louis this week, they’ll finish below .500 for the second time in as many months. The last time that happened under Maddon? Never. Let’s hope that trend continues as we close the book on the month of July.