SAN DIEGO – It’s a feeling that Cubs’ fans haven’t really had since Joe Maddon took over as manager in 2015.
With 20 games to go, the team has a real chance of not making the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Even in 2015 and 2018, when the team missed out on the division title, they were still close to a shoo-in for the Wild Card spot at the start of September.
That’s not really the case in 2019, where the Cubs are in a fight just to get into the one-game playoff as the shot at a division title gets a bit farther away thanks to a red-hot division rival.
After going 16-9 in July then 18-9 in August, the Cardinals have picked up a 4 1/2 game lead in the National League Central division with just under three weeks left in the season. The Cubs have 20 games left to make that up, and as they do, they’ll also be in a fight for the Wild Card as they start a four-game series with the Padres on Monday night on WGN.
Going into Monday, they sit three games behind the Nationals for the first Wild Card spot. The Cubs hold onto the second spot, but they’ve got some competition right behind them, starting with the Arizona Diamondbacks. They’ve won 11 of their last 13 games and sit a 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs for that spot.
The Brewers, who took 3-of-4 from the Cubs last weekend, sit just two games back along withe Phillies.
On top of that, the Cubs are now likely without Javier Baez for the rest of the regular season with a hairline fracture in his left thumb. Kris Bryant continues to deal with knee soreness as well, and Craig Kimbrel remains on the injured list with elbow inflammation.
It’s a tough spot for a team that’s used to competing for seeding the postseason, not just to make it. All of the injuries won’t make the pressure any easier to take, but Joe Maddon’s trying to keep it in check.
“There’s only one way to deal with moments like this, and that is in the moment,” said Maddon. “Anxiety lives in the future. You’ve got to stay right here, right now. Things could change just as quickly. We could win the first three games in San Diego easily, other teams could lose.
“You’ve just got to take care of yourself on a nightly basis.”
Especially as the number of nights dwindles as September continues.