Cubs see the end of a 30-day road ahead as they travel to Arizona

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 15: Steve Cishek #41 of the Chicago Cubs (L) high fives manager Joe Maddon #70 after their win over the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field on September 15, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Cubs won 1-0. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Like everything else for the team over the last three weeks, nothing is coming easy.

To end a stretch of 30 consecutive days without a scheduled day off, the team has to take one last three-game road trip before returning to Chicago for the rest of the regular season.

Of course, they’re heading out West.

After a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Reds, the Cubs took off for lengthy flight to Phoenix where they will start a three-game series with the Diamondbacks at Chase Field Monday at 8:40 PM on WGN-TV.

Once these games are done – and with no chance of a rainout due to a retractable roof – the Cubs will return after Wednesday night’s game for their first day off since August 20th. It’s exactly one month to the day, completing a difficult stretch during a tight playoff race where the Cubs continue to hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the Brewers.

Despite the string of contests and a few injuries along the way, including Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, and Pedro Strop, the Cubs are already guaranteed a winning record the last month. Since August 21st, they’ve got a 16-10 record, good enough to keep them in first place the whole way.

Kris Bryant, who returned from the disabled list at the beginning of September, has played in every game since the start of the month. While it can certainly be a physical grind, it’s taking care of the mind that is most important during this unusual string of games.

“You can definitely get through any physical pain or discomfort or fatigue, but mentally it’s kinda tough to wake up and come to the field for 30 straight days, knowing there is a chance you’re going to play a game, for 30 straight days,” said Bryant. “It’s tough. I mean, any human being should feel the way that some of us feel.

“But it’s only going to make us stronger for hopefully – we hope this doesn’t happen again. But if it does, we’ll know how to get through it.”

The hope is for the former, as the strain of such a long stretch has taxed Joe Maddon’s lineups and bullpen. He’s already dealing without main closer Brandon Morrow, who may return for the series against the Diamondbacks, while also losing his backup Pedro Strop with a hamstring strain.

So far, the Cubs are going with a “close by committee” approach with a number of pitchers handling the duties in two games against the Reds. It’s just been another strain for the team closing in on their fourth-consecutive playoff berth and third-straight NL Central title.

“Our guys have been playing their butts off,” said Maddon of the stretch. “The whole bench is engaged constantly. Everybody’s wanting to know what’s next, what’s gonna happen next. Everybody’s ready for their role.”

While at the same time being ready for a day off that’s three games and one long road trip away.