Mathematically speaking, Thursday night wasn't a must-win for the Chicago Cubs. But with time running down on the clock until the 2023 MLB trade deadline and the two teams Chicago is chasing in the NL Central standings both winning earlier in the day, it essentially amounted to a must-win affair.
Instead of rising to the challenge, Marcus Stroman and the Cubs fell flat, dropping a 7-1 contest to St. Louis, a team that's off to its worst start in decades but has suddenly won six straight and is nipping at Chicago's heels in the standings.
Cubs needed Marcus Stroman to be their hero; instead, he fell short
Stroman failed to get out of the fourth, surrendering five runs (four earned) on seven hits, striking out and walking four in an effort that raised his ERA on the year to a still-solid 3.09. The Cubs desperately needed their All-Star right-hander to keep them in the game, but he really struggled and never looked comfortable on the bump.
Offensively, the club pounded the ball into the ground all night long. The highlight was easily Yan Gomes hitting a pair of triples, becoming the fifth player in the league to accomplish the feat this season, but legitimate run-scoring opportunities were few and far between for a team that has struggled to put together consistent performances day-in and day-out all season long.
The loss drops Chicago a full 8.5 games out in the division race - and, barring a dramatic turn of events, the Cubs will be sellers at the trade deadline for the third consecutive summer. That's hardly what fans and the organization expected when the season started, but it's where we're at. The second half of the season will, once again, be about development and evaluation as the front office goes back to the drawing board this offseason.