Is this the end of an era for the Cubs as the 2019 season comes to a close?
PITTSBURGH — Just a week ago, they were coming off the field in what looked to be another successful home series.
Their offense had another impressive evening in an 8-2 triumph against the Reds that kept them in the thick of both the NL Central and NL Wild Card races.
Now they’re completely out of one and on the brink of being eliminated in another.
That’s what six-straight losses at home, four to the division leaders, five by one-run, will do to your hopes for the postseason. With six games remaining in the season, the Cubs sit four games back of the Brewers for the last Wild Card spot in the National League.
To put it simply, the Cubs have to win out and hope the Brewers lose four of their next six games. Thanks to their Wrigley Field sweep, their first in a four-game series since 1921 at the park, St. Louis officially eliminated the Cubs from contention for the division title.
At least they get to face the Pirates this week, and they’re struggling much more than the Cubs are to end the 2019 season. They’ve lost nine in a row, including three-straight to the Cubs when they scored 47 runs in the three-game series.
With their odds at the playoffs slim — a 1.7% chance according to ESPN — now the focus turns to what will become of the team in 2020. That starts with the manager, which many figure will have a change after five successful seasons under Joe Maddon.
But after two late slumps to end the last two season, including this one which likely costs them a playoff bid, leadership could look for a change at the top. Maddon’s contract runs out at the end of the year, so the team could make the decision to let him go, where he’d likely be in demand for a few jobs around the league.
For now, however, it’s business at hand for the current manager and his team, who are still hobbling toward the finish both figuratively and literally. Anthony Rizzo remains in the lineup with his sprained ankle while Kris Bryant remains out with the one he sustained in Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals. The team said an MRI showed a moderate sprain of his right ankle and will continue to work to improve it so he can return before the end of the season.
Shortstop Javier Baez tested out his injured thumb in the infield at PNC Park before the game as he works back from a hairline thumb fracture. He saw time as a pinch runner and for one at-bat in the St. Louis series.