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Ready for September? Cubs end August with loss to Brewers

The Cubs’ offense went quiet in the final game before the season’s defining month.

Kyle Schwarber argues a strike call with umpire Rob Drake on Saturday.
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The 2-0 loss to the Brewers on Saturday was the Cubs’ 135th game of the year. It was also the last date before the calendar flips to September, and the Cubs’ resilience gets tested even more.

They recently recovered from a humbling home sweep by the Nationals by winning three in a row against the Mets in New York. But unlike in recent seasons, they haven’t enjoyed a prolonged hot streak in 2019.

At least not yet.

“It’s been a dogfight for us all year, just as far as getting on a roll,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “There are highs and lows. Hopefully we can go on a high for the next two months and not look back. But if another punch comes, we’ll be able to take it and keep going.”

The Cubs’ four-game winning streak was snapped, and they fell 2œ games behind the Cardinals in the National League Central after the Cardinals swept a doubleheader against the Reds. And if the Cubs are to get hot down the stretch, it’ll be against the division. They have five games left with Milwaukee and seven to go with St. Louis, not to mention dates with spoilers Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

“You have to play really good games against the Cardinals, you have to play good games against Milwaukee and you cannot take Pittsburgh and Cincinnati lightly -because they’re good players and they’re trying to put up numbers for the future,” said left-hander Cole Hamels (7-5), who allowed two runs and five hits and struck out seven in six innings.

“It’s a matter of really grinding out the amount of games that we have. We really have to come away with a good record on the road and at home. That will be the case to see who really makes it.”

Last season, it was the Brewers who made it across the line to win the division. They trailed by five games Sept. 2 but swiped the Central with a 19-7 September and a win over the Cubs in a tiebreaker.

As Milwaukee showed — and the Cubs need not be reminded of — this last month can change everything.

“If a team gets hot and things start clicking, and you get on that two-week stretch where we win a bunch of games in a row and somebody else struggles,” Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich said, “that’s a wrap because there’s not enough time to make it up.”

On Sunday, the Cubs will get back veteran Ben Zobrist (who was seen working out on the field after the game) after he was added to the 40- and 25-man rosters. To make room on the 40-man roster, Mark Zagunis was designated for assignment, and David Bote was optioned to Class AAA Iowa to make room on the 25-man roster. Catcher Willson Contreras also will be returning soon from his hamstring injury.

“I know we’re going to add some guys, which is going to be a big help,” Hamels said. “It comes down to us and who wants it more. This division is not going to be easy. It was never going to be easy.”

The Brewers showed that last year, and despite a downturn from 2018, Cubs manager Joe Maddon still sees them as a threat. But he’s also optimistic about his own group.

“I really believe our guys are in a good place mentally right now,” Maddon said. “I love the spirit before the game. It’s good. I love it in the clubhouse in the morning when you walk in. I have no issues. Our guys are going about their business properly.”