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Bad memories of chicken-and-beer collapse slow Theo’s playoff planning now

PITTSBURGH — Despite a hefty lead for a playoff berth and just three weeks left in the season, team president Theo Epstein says he’s not ready to design playoff roster plans yet.

“After living through 2011, I don’t take anything for granted, and I’m well aware of how momentum in September can take on a life of all its own and affect the standings,” said Epstein, who was the general manager in Boston when the Red Sox collapsed down the stretch just ahead of his hiring in Chicago.

The Red Sox were in first place by 1½ games and held a nine-game lead over third-place Tampa Bay on Sept. 1 before losing 20 of their final 27 games during that “chicken-and-beer” collapse and missing the playoffs.

“So it’s important to just keep focused on that day’s game, keep notching your wins, storing them, and things will be OK,” Epstein said. “Just take care of your own business.”

The Cubs had a 7½-game lead over the San Francisco Giants — their nearest rival for the NL’s second wild-card berth — entering play Tuesday.