The Rundown: Cubs Facing Sweep in AZ, Wild Card Race Tightens, Swanson Gaffe Gives Game Away, Dodgers Clinch NL West

“There’s evil in the air and there’s thunder in the sky, and a killer’s on the bloodshot streets.” – Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell

Can I leave this section empty due to frustration? Evan Altman already summed up the Cubs’ recent play pretty succinctly. Last night’s 7-6 loss to the Diamondbacks was as long and excruciating as a ballad by Meat Loaf.

If Friday night’s loss was crushing, yesterday’s was devastating. The silver lining is the Cubs still hold the second Wild Card spot, but they’ve lost the tiebreaker to the three teams that are within half a game. We’ll find out what kind of manager David Ross is today and the rest of this week. If he can’t pull the Cubs out of this slump, there’s no reason to keep him next year.

It’s not all on Ross, though. The players, including the unflappable Dansby Swanson, are wearing a choke collar with a 100-number passcode combination. Ross needs to recognize that, give some players a clear-your-head day, and start fielding a winning lineup. He also needs to set his bullpen instead of playing hunches. Losing Michael Fulmer and Adbert Alzolay this late in the season is disastrous, but each member of the bullpen needs to know his role without question and Ross has to stick to his guns.

Rookie Jordan Wicks is tasked with being the stopper today. A win will relieve some pressure, after which the Cubs need to burn through the Rockies and Pirates like their playoff lives depend on it. That’s because they do. What’s worse than “crushing” or “devastating” if they lose today? I don’t know, but it will feel almost like a season-ending defeat.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Props to Adbert for keeping the faith while everyone is losing their heads.

Central Intelligence

  • Milwaukee (84-64): The Brewers are 18-7 since August 18, the best in baseball. They’ve been an outstanding end-of-season team under Craig Counsell, but thank the stars he’s not returning next year.
  • Cincinnati (78-72): The Reds can’t field and they have piss-poor starting pitching, but they just won’t go away.
  • Pittsburgh (69-80): The Pirates have a farm system that could be the best in baseball within two years. That’s what happens when you get a top-three pick every year.
  • St. Louis (65-83): Am I alone in thinking the Cardinals are laying up just to make things harder on the Cubs? Their voodoo magic will probably get them the top pick in the draft lottery, too.

Cubs Math

Congratulations to the Dodgers for clinching the NL West yesterday. They’ve taken the division 10 times in 11 seasons, and they won 106 games in the one year that they finished in second place.

  1. The Cubs trail the Dodgers by 13 games with 13 left for the No. 2 seed, but they’re eliminated due to the tiebreaker. LA remains 6.5 games ahead of Milwaukee, who beat the Nationals 9-5.
  2. The Cubs now trail the Brewers by 6.5 games in the NL Central but are seven behind in the loss column. Milwaukee’s magic number to clinch the NL Central is eight and it is just five to clinch a playoff berth.
  3. The Phillies beat the Cardinals 6-1 and hold the top Wild Card spot, 3.5 games ahead of the Cubs.
  4. The Reds and Diamondbacks are percentage points behind the Cubs and one game behind in the loss column. Both teams hold the tiebreaker advantage over Chicago.
  5. The Marlins are a game behind the Cubs after beating the Braves 11-5.
  6. If the season ended today, the Braves and Dodgers would have first-round byes, the Reds would play a best-of-three series at Milwaukee, and the Cubs would travel to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies, but a lot of that could change based on today’s results. Chicago is still in control of its own destiny, believe it or not.

Climbing the Ladder

“Be still and go on to bed, nobody knows what lies ahead. And life is short, to say the least. We’re in the belly of the beast.” – The Killers, Be Still

Life without Alzolay is not good and the Cubs have to stop finding new ways to lose. If they cannot get back in the win column today, Arizona will overtake them for the second Wild Card spot. Cincinnati could too, and Miami could move into a tie with the Cubs.

  • Games Played: 149
  • Record: 78-71 (.523)
  • Total Plate Appearances: 5,709
  • Total Strikeouts: 1,288
  • Strikeout Rate: 22.56%
  • Team Batting Average: .254
  • Runs Scored: 747
  • Runs Allowed: 657
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 66.5%, 2.0% to win the World Series

How About That!

The Braves tied a major league record with five players who have hit 30 or more home runs this season. Props to Ozzie Albies (30), Marcell Ozuna (34), Austin Riley (36), Ronald Acuña Jr. (37), and Matt Olson (51).

Live sports are becoming harder to find as more MLB (and the NFL) teams sign streaming deals.

Sam Fuld and James Click are the top candidates to replace Chaim Bloom as Boston’s president of baseball operations. Carter Hawkins is on that list, too, as the Red Sox interestingly have no in-house personnel listed at or near the top.

Former MLB manager Charlie Manuel suffered a stroke during a medical procedure but it appears he’s going to survive.

Thursday’s Three Stars

  1. Mark Canha – The Milwaukee slugger was 3-for-5 with five RBI and a grand slam. He also singlehandedly led the Brewers to their win over the Nationals.
  2. Rob Manfred – I’m not happy that the Cubs lost, but that ghost runner rule sure made it the most insane game I’ve ever seen. Full disclosure, I watched the condensed game version after the fact.
  3. Oswaldo Cabrera – The Yankees outfielder hadn’t hit a home run in three months, but then he touched a bat once used by Roberto Clemente and immediately went yard. Somebody needs to send that bat to Wrigley Field for Chicago’s upcoming homestand. Then let the Cubs take it to Atlanta and Milwaukee.

Extra Innings

We need some of that Ernie Banks enthusiasm right about now.

Sunday Morning Six-Pack

  1. We dropped a lot of Bears content over at Bears Insider yesterday. First and foremost, I predicted a two-touchdown win today, just like I did last week. Fool me once…
  2. Luke Getsy and Justin Fields laid eggs last Sunday, but Khalil Herbert is slumping, too. Herbert could lose his starting gig to D’Onta Foreman or Roschon Johnson if he doesn’t step it up, but he’s played well against the Buccaneers in the past.
  3. Head coach Matt Eberflus reminds me a lot of Dick Jauron, and though Jauron led the Bears to a 13-3 record in 2001, the comparison isn’t flattering.
  4. The 10-year-old daughter of my second cousin threw me the greatest sentence ever yesterday: “Albert Einstein came up with a theory about space, and it was about time, too.”
  5. Peacock+ with the Showtime addition has become my go-to streaming network. It’s cheap at $5.99 per month, and not only do you get great television content, movies, and documentaries, but you also get a crap ton of sports. Don’t let me twist your arm, though.
  6. U2 surprised Las Vegas residents and tourists with an impromptu concert on Saturday night. They’re a favorite band of mine because they do things like this all the time, though I know Bono rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Edge is a very underrated guitarist in my humble opinion.

They Said It

  • “The best athletes that I’ve been around are really honest with self-reflection. They can look at themselves in the mirror and say, ‘I need to work on this, I need to get better at this,’ and are always looking for ways to improve. Not necessarily in a way where you’re talking bad about yourself, but knowing you need to get better at this to reach the next level.” – Swanson
  • “In hindsight, if I could have come in and dove and caught it, that probably would have been the best move.” – Swanson
  • “This team is resilient. We’ve had some tough losses, but we’ve handled it before. We’ve got to do a lot of little things better, but [the Diamondbacks] continue to fight. Couldn’t finish it tonight.” – Ross

Sunday Walk-Up Song

The Cubs can’t let the Diamondbacks beat them today. Make no mistake, this is a must-win game.

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