The Cubs—now just a half-game behind the flailing Brewers—open a seven-game homestand Monday night with a four-game series against the Phillies, followed by a three-game set with the Mets. The Brewers will begin a six-game homestand against the same two clubs in reverse order. However, since they don’t open against the Metropolitans until Tuesday night, the Brewers will have no direct control over whether or not they go to bed Monday night in sole possession of first place in the NL Central.
One of baseball’s enduring clichés is the one that says a victory at the beginning of the season is worth just as much as one in the final days of a pennant race. Is it the same with defeats?
What Cub fan could possibly forget the sick feeling of watching the Boys gag
on a four-run, ninth-inning lead at Shea Stadium in mid-May, a defeat that left the Cubs at 18-21, in third place and already seven games back of the then 26-15 Milwaukee Brewers.
We now know the damage wasn’t fatal: the Cubs have gone 37-27 since that harrowing afternoon and are on the threshold of claiming the division lead.
For their part, the Brewers out-Cubbed the Cubs this very weekend, spitting up six- and five-run leads
in consecutive days at St. Louis, with two key relievers, closer Francisco Cordero and set-up man Derrick Turnbow, leaving fingerprints at the scene of the crime.
Whether or not the Cubs are able to wrest the top spot in the Central from the Brewers in the next couple days or anytime in the next week, the race will be far from over. (There may yet be a few, new personnel wrinkles
to complicate the plot.)
But as we close out July and move into the really meaty part of the baseball season, things are looking better and better for the Cubs, that stinging defeat to the Mets is further and further in our rearview mirror, and the Brewers, fresh off two of the most devastating defeats in the franchise's recent history, have to be thinking about what it will be like to be the hunter instead of the hunted.