CHICAGO

Cubs’ Playoff Hopes Could Be Tested During Final Month

The month of September is going to bring palpitations to Cubs fans, but their playoff chances are still very much alive.

Photo Courtesy of UPI.com

No, I’m not saying that the Chicago Cubs are going to miss the playoffs. Odds are, they’ll either bump St. Louis and win the NL Central or sneak away with a Wild Card spot. Regardless of the results, a tough slate of games remains for the Cubbies.

As it stands today (August 29), Chicago sits two games behind their bitter rival Cardinals. The Cubs have been a truly up and down team, making it difficult to determine their fate. Needless to stay, this season would be considered a full-blown failure if they miss out on the playoffs. There have been rumors since the end of last season and at times this season, of Joe Maddon not being offered an extension. If they miss out on the postseason, it’s possible he could be on the hot seat.

The Cubs have one noted advantage left this season, their schedule, which could also be their downfall.

Of their 27 games through September, all but six are against NL Central opponents. They finish the month of August by hosting Milwaukee, host the Mariners for a two-game set, then head away to face the Brewers again. Seven games against the Brewers, who are still quite the threat themselves, could make a world of a difference in the standings.

Breaking up their competition a bit more, they play AT San Diego four games, and everyone knows the struggles Chicago has had on the road. Then, the gauntlet begins with series against the Pirates (twice), Reds, and Cardinals (twice). That final week ends on the road, wrapping up with a three-game series in St. Louis.

Cubs vs. Brew Crew

As of now, the Cubs are 7-5 against the Brewers this season with five of those wins coming at Wrigley. The good news is they play at Wrigley in a few days, but it’s a different story at Miller Park. Chicago last played Milwaukee in early August and swept them away, scoring 17 runs compared to allowing five.

In this upcoming home series, Jose Quintana, Cole Hamels, and Yu Darvish are scheduled to start. “Q” has been lights out for the Cubs, having won three of his last four starts to help solidify a shakier rotation. Hamels has been going through a rough patch but he’s shown if he can pitch past five innings he can find his rhythm.

To close out the series, Darvish will take the mound in hopes of continuing his strong season. Any Cubs fan knows how bad the season started for Darvish, particularly while the walks kept mounting. He’s turned a corner, now proving his worth by winning two of his last five, but pitching lights out each game.

Cubs vs. Reds

Talk about an Achilles heel. When the Cubs and Reds meet up, the “toilet seat” Reds (based on their C design in the logo) tend to get the best of Chicago. In fact, the Reds have flushed the Cubs by beating Chicago nine times, compared to five losses. Cincy is a team the Cubs should be able to beat since they’re basically mediocre. Sure, the Reds entered the season with high hopes, and they boast a couple of aces (Luis Castillo and Trevor Bauer), Sonny Gray sits just on the outside, Chicago should be able to win this series.

There’s a Cub killer on every team it seems and most recently, that guy is Aristides Aquino who launched five homers the last series they played together.

Cubs vs. Pirates

The Cubs have to play the Pirates in two more series next month. While the record suggested the possibility for sweeps, these could easily be considered trap games. So far, the Cubs are 8-4 against Pittsburgh this season. One good thing to note? Chicago has been able to turn the tide when they play Pittsburgh on a couple of occasions.

After starting out the season with a rough 2-7 record, Chicago bounced back with a pair of wins against the Pirates, their first series win of the year. Unfortunately, they weren’t as successful before the All-Star Break, losing three of four on the road. With renewed hope, Chicago dominated those same Pirates in sweeping fashion.

More recently, the Cubs beat Pittsburgh, on the road no less. By winning that series, Chicago snapped a skid back to mid-May of not taking a series and their road struggles have been well documented. They capped off that series by playing in Williamsport, PA (home of the Little League World Series) with a convincing 7-1 win.

Perhaps they’ve turned a corner just in time, having already won their current series against the Mets in New York, with hopes of getting a sweep today.

Cubs vs. Cards

Any Cubs fan knows the rivalry between these two runs deep. There’s already another level when Chicago and St. Louis play without adding in what’s at stake. One of these two is likely to win the NL Central, while the other will be a strong Wild Card contender. Right now, ESPN has the Cubs with a 78 percent of making the playoffs and the Cardinals at 82 percent.

The Cubs host St. Louis for a four-game series late September and conclude the regular season at Busch Stadium. As of now, the Cubs are 7-5, having swept the Cardinals twice, and were swept once in return while avoiding being swept again earlier in August.

Prediction Time

As mentioned above, the Cubs can be hot or cold during certain stretches. They own a 44-22 record at home, one of the best in the majors, but have a more abysmal 27-39 road record. Given the fact, half their games left are at home and the other half on the road, I say they win 20 and lose 10 more, starting with their series against Milwaukee on August 30.

It’s unclear whether or not they’ll win the NL Central, but one thing is evident, they control their own destiny and are still in the thick of things. Cubs fans should have plenty more chances to Fly the W!

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