It’s tempting to say that this might have been the Cubs’ very worst series of the year. Then again, it’s hard to say definitively that was even their worst series of the year against the Brewers. In fact, it’s hard to say without reservation that it’s their worst series against the Brewers in the last seven days.
That’s how it’s gone for these Cubs lately. In what might as well have been a repeat of last weekend’s disastrous three-game set at Wrigley, these last four games got off to a rousing start before devolving into something far less appealing.
Still, the Cubs would have been relatively fortunate to leave Milwaukee with only the three losses they suffered on the field. Fate wasn’t so kind, as they ended up suffering twice that number when you add in their smörgåsbord of injuries. Craig Kimbrel is on the injured list, Kris Bryant‘s health is in serious doubt, and Javier Báez will almost certainly miss the remainder of this season.
The hits just keep on coming.
- Cubs 10, Brewers 5 (recap)
- Brewers 7, Cubs 1 (recap)
- Brewers 3, Cubs 2 (recap)
- Brewers 8, Cubs 5 (recap)
I’ve typically refrained from posting highlights of the Cubs’ opponents doing great things in this section, so it’s going to be pretty light on videos. Most of the good came in Thursday’s opener. While starter José Quintana wasn’t at his best, the Cubs offense was able to overcome his struggles. Their 10-run output was bolstered by a number of big time performances, but none stood out more than Kyle Schwarber‘s.
That 442-foot grand slam put the game comfortably out of reach for the Cubs and tricked us into thinking we might be in store for a put-away series. As we all know by now, reality had crueler ideas.
Friday’s 7-1 loss was a ho-hum affair with no real standout moments for the Cubs other than Nick Castellanos‘ 24th home run, which gave the Cubs a short lived 1-0 lead in the 3rd inning. The Brewers stormed back for four more in the bottom half of that inning, taking a lead that they would not relinquish.
Saturday’s loss contained the most maddening moments of the series. The 8th inning was, for many, one of Joe Maddon’s most unforgivable innings of bullpen mismanagement.
Up by only a single run with Yasmani Grandal, Christian Yelich, and Eric Thames due up, this seemed from all angles to be the kind of situation that called for your best available high-leverage reliever. Whether that guy is Rowan Wick (my view), Brandon Kintzler, or whoever is irrelevant to this discussion. Two guys who are absolutely not on that list are David Phelps and Derek Holland.
Yet, those were the guys who got the ball to start the 8th. Phelps threw all of one pitch, surrendering the game-tying home run before giving way to Holland, who walked Yelich on four pitches. Though it was not without drama, Wick came in and cleaned up that mess.
Yelich walked the game off an inning later, allowing an unearned run to score via a baserunner who reached on an error by Addison Russell, who is supposedly a good defensive shortstop.
Sunday’s loss served as the rotting cherry on top of this moldy sundae, as Jon Lester was ineffective and the Cubs were unable to hold the 3-1 lead they briefly held.
- If there’s a positive to this series, it’s that we’re continuing to see Schwarber turn into the best version of himself. Every home run he hits is a new career high and, after this series, that total is up to 34. With how he’s going lately, 40 home runs doesn’t seem like an outrageous goal.
- No one could be hotter than Maddon, whose seat is burning bright blue at this point. It’s becoming nearly impossible to envision a scenario in which he is brought back into the fold to manage next year’s Cubs.
- It’s not a good time to be a 35-year-old borderline Hall of Famer in the Cubs rotation right now. Both Lester and Cole Hamels were wildly ineffective this weekend, giving up at least five runs in their respective starts. It’s hard not to think Hamels’ oblique injury is contributing to his recent struggles.
- Another 9th inning error by Russell contributed to another Cubs loss. As he has done so many times in the past, the once heralded prospect demonstrated an uncanny ability to be tone deaf in all things that he says and does.
Russell: “I just sailed it” pic.twitter.com/CvJhgOAQM7
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) September 8, 2019
Not only did the Cubs fail to put Milwaukee away in the races for the National League’s second Wild Card spot, they let the Brewers storm right back into very reasonable contention. The second-place Diamondbacks also had a nice weekend, further narrowing the gap
As for the division race? The Cardinals took care of business and now have a 4.5 game lead on the Cubs. We all saw what the Brewers had to do last year to overcome a deficit like that in under a month. It can be done, but it’s not easy and, based on what we’ve seen lately, it doesn’t strike this writer as particularly likely. The Cubs could be forgiven for shifting their focus to the Wild Card race.
If you’re looking for a bright side, my only suggestion is that you get up early and look to the east.