With only 10 games remaining, the Cubs (30-20) start this series 5.5 up in the division. The Twins (31-21) roll into Wrigley in second place in the AL central but with a record equally as impressive as the Cubs'. They are still in striking distance of the first place White Sox, whom the Cubs will face in the season's 3 final games. Given their sizeable lead in the division, these last 10 games will likely have lost some drama. However, this is also an important stretch for key offensive players who have floundered most of the season, a bullpen that has only recently found reasonable footing, and a rotation with two consistent performers at the top and some major variables behind them. See below for the weekend's match-ups.
With first place still in their possession and an Alec Mills no-hitter under their belt, the Cubs return to Wrigley to take on the first of several AL central opponents. Cleveland comes into the series in third place, 5 games out of first and 2 games out of second. The Cubs begin the series 4 games up in the division.
The Cubs staged a 9th inning come-from-behind victory against Josh Hader last night to even the series at 1-1. That victory also pushed the Brewers to 5 back in the division and held the Cardinals at 3 back. Heyward was the hero, smashing a go-ahead 3-run homer and Vargas followed up with an solo shot for insurance prompting me to wonder if Vargas might actually be good for something on a team stacked with 2nd base depth. Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs' bullpen deserve credit for keeping the game close for 8 innings, and Kimbrel managed to close it out in the 9th. Perhaps the offense can lead the way today and take some pressure off of a Cubs' bullpen that has been surprisingly effective in September.
The Brewers defeated the Cubs in a 1-0 pitchers' duel and the series stands at 0-1 in the Brewers' favor. The Brewers are now 4 games behind the Cubs and 1 behind the 2nd place Cardinals. Are these games part of the "stretch?" It is September, and only 14 games remain. On the other hand, that's nearly 25% of the season. Both teams have had to manage so far without major contributions from their star hitters. On the Cubs' side, Bryant, Rizzo, Baez, and Schwarber are all near the Mendoza line, and Contreras only recently woke up. For the Brewers, Yelich is also batting near .200 and Keston Hiura has struck out 33.3% of the time while batting .224; their top performers have been Avisail Garcia and Jedd Gyorko. Will role players continue to prop up each team as they drive to the season's conclusion?
With last night's unlikely comeback win against the Reds, the Cubs continued to hold their nearest division competitors at a reasonable distance. The Cards split their doubleheader and remain 3-games back in 2nd place. Milwaukee enters this series at 5.0 games back and needing a series win to keep themselves in the race. They will send their opening day starter to get the series going, but the Cubs will be fortunate the Brewers' surprise best starter, Corbin Burnes.
The Cubs lost a tough one. Darvish struggled with his command in the first inning and then was his dominant self after that, while the Cubs offense floundered against a locked-in Trevor Bauer. The series stands at 1-1 with the Reds' secondary ace, Sonny Gray, taking on an intriguing Cubs fill-in, Adbert Alzolay.