PHILADELPHIA — Almost five months into the season, and the Cubs are blowing eighth-inning leads to last-place teams, driving balls into the outfield for triple plays and losing series to tanking teams in the hunt for the No. 1 draft pick.
If this is who this team is, then it’s going to be a long September and a short October for the Cubs — assuming they get to October.
“That’s pretty much our season right there,” manager Joe Maddon said after the Cubs lost to the woeful Phillies 6-3 on Sunday after beating them 17-2 on Saturday. The Cubs head home with losses in three of their last four games and a 3-3 dud of a road trip against two last-place teams.
“That’s why we’re in the position we’re in and not with a much better record than we have,” Maddon said. “We’ve been too much teeter-tottering the whole season.
“We were expecting better than that [during the trip]. We were in position to do that. It should have been better.”
If the Cubs’ season expires next month, that could be its epitaph.
After losing a series against the team with the worst record in baseball, the Cubs looked ahead at a schedule that packs 24 division games into the last 33.
“I think we’ve played pretty well against the guys in our division, so hopefully we can keep that up,” said third baseman Kris Bryant, whose fielding error contributed to a five-run fifth inning that erased a 3-0 lead.
“The games are going to mean a lot more. I think we’ve got pretty good energy going now in the dugout. I’m looking forward to it. I think we’ll go on a nice run here and hopefully end up where we want to end up.”
If so, they’ll do it after squandering the weakest part of their schedule, going only 8-5 during a four-series run against three last-place teams. They led the Brewers by one game when the stretch began and added just one to the margin.
“We’re in first place. We’ve got as good a chance as anybody,” said starter John Lackey, who clearly wasn’t happy about having little to show for what looked like one of his best outings of the season for four innings.
This one turned in the top of the fifth, when the Cubs opened the inning with a walk to Anthony Rizzo and a single by Tommy La Stella. Then Javy Baez ripped a sinking liner to left that looked like a sure hit off the bat.
That’s exactly what Rizzo believed when he put his head down and committed to third base with the thought of scoring, he said.
But left fielder Rhys Hoskins made a diving catch, his glove twisting behind him on the play to hide whether he finished the catch. With La Stella following Rizzo’s lead, Hoskins was able to throw easily to second, and the Phillies completed the relay to first for the unusual triple play.
“The umpire called it properly, so we messed up on the bases,” said Maddon, who acknowledged the strangeness of the play and difficulty to read from the bases.
Then came the Phillies’ big fifth. And a long flight home.
“We can’t sit here and pout about it,” Rizzo said. “We’ve just got to move on to tomorrow against the Pirates.”
Said Bryant: “I think we’re OK. We’re still breathing. We’re here, playing baseball. We’re in a playoff race. It’s fun.
“It’s not a great road trip, but we’re not going to hang our heads. I think if we start doing that, stuff snowballs, bad attitudes [develop] and stuff like that. We don’t want that.”
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