As Cubs bullpen crumbles, so do the team's postseason chances

With key relievers injured and others struggling, going to the pen has proven to be a fatal move for the Cubs and David Ross lately.
Sep 26, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Chicago Cubs manager David Ross (3) makes a pitching change
Sep 26, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Chicago Cubs manager David Ross (3) makes a pitching change / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With Adbert Alzolay, Michael Fulmer and Brad Boxberger injured and Mark Leiter Jr. seemingly incapable of re-discovering the splitter that made him so dangerous for much of the year, it's slim pickings out in the Chicago Cubs bullpen.

As the Cubs look to avoid a sweep at the hands of the powerhouse Atlanta Braves, the echoes of the last two night's losses continue to ring in our ears. A pair of late-inning collapses have pushed the team from the postseason picture, entering action Thursday in a tie for the third wild card spot, but on the wrong end of the head-to-head tiebreaker with Miami.

Come-from-behind wins are nothing new for the Braves - and with a lineup as relentlessly deep as theirs, that's not exactly a shock. But lately, it feels like even if you get a good start from whoever is taking the ball, as soon as David Ross goes to the pen, the situation becomes dangerous.

Cubs bullpen seems to be on its last legs amid September collapse

Closer Adbert Alzolay could return from the IL this weekend, but it may prove to be too little, too late. The loss of the right-hander had a trickle-down effect that, when paired with the loss of Michael Fulmer, left Ross with little in terms of reliable options.

Even Julian Merryweather, who has been a nice find all year for the Cubs, ran into tough luck this week in Atlanta. The one guy you felt decent about hitting a wall, even for one night, felt like a death blow as a fan.

There's no solution here, really. Injuries have forced guys into roles they're clearly not ready for - and with four games left, the Cubs simply need some guys to step up and maybe catch some lucky breaks along the way. Riding the same handful of relievers all summer wound up having major consequences: namely, the team's playoff hopes hanging by a thread after sitting north of 90% three weeks ago.