Cubs’ upcoming schedule promises to make scoreboard watching even more interesting

The Cubs are still in the second NL wild-card spot after beating the Tigers 6-4 on Wednesday.

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The Cubs’ Ian Happ scores as Detroit Tigers catcher Jake Rogers waits for the throw at home plate during Wednesday’s game.

The Cubs’ Ian Happ scores as Detroit Tigers catcher Jake Rogers waits for the throw at home plate during Wednesday’s game.

Paul Sancya/AP

DETROIT — Cubs catcher Yan Gomes pumped his fist even before closer Adbert Alzolay started his signature victory celebration. With Jake Rogers’ whiff, the Cubs claimed a 6-4 victory against the Tigers on Wednesday.

“I can’t wait to get to my phone when we win, and I don’t want to check when we lose,” manager David Ross said of following the division and wild-card races. “Just being honest. That’s the fan and me and the competitor in me.”

The Cubs remained 3⅓ games behind the division-leading Brewers, who beat the Twins in extra innings, and they sit in the second National League wild-card spot, behind the Phillies. Not everyone on the team is scoreboard-watching, but it’s not uncommon.

“I would be lying if I said, ‘No, I’m not,’ ” shortstop Dansby Swanson said last week. “But I’d also be lying if I said, ‘Yes, I am.’ It’s so easy to scoreboard-watch, but at the end of the day, it’s our duty to go perform. And we can’t help ourselves unless we play good baseball.”

The season is winding down as the Cubs are playing meaningful second-half games for the first time in a few years. They have 36 games left in the regular season.

“It’s only going to get better,” Ross said. “We’ve got a little over a month left of the season, and we get to play a lot of those teams that are around us and ahead of us. And this is what you sign up for.”

The Cubs’ next 11 games are against division opponents. After a trip to Pittsburgh, they play the Brewers at home and then go on the road to face the Reds. The Pirates are out of the race for the NL Central title, but the Reds are just barely trailing the second-place Cubs.

After that in-division stretch, the Cubs play the Giants and Diamondbacks, who are also in the wild-card race.

Talk about a consequential part of the schedule.

“There’s so much focus on strength of schedule, and pockets of schedule, and what we’re doing and the Brewers are doing and comparing those two things,” second baseman Nico Hoerner said in a conversation with the Sun-Times this week. “And that’s kind of a trap.”

Players can’t be putting that much pressure on each game in August.

That external focus honed in on the past week as an opportunity for the Cubs. On paper, it provided a soft landing, as they faced three teams with sub-.500 records. They went 5-3 in that stretch — 3-2 in a homestand against the White Sox and Royals and 2-1 in Detroit. Every game was decided by two or fewer runs.

“Those things, of course, are real,”

Hoerner said. “But at the same time, the sample size of three baseball games, two baseball games . . . there’s going to be parts of the next 40 games that don’t go perfectly right. And that’s because it’s 40 games of baseball, and that’s just how it works.”

Look at the win Wednesday. The Cubs were in good shape through the first five innings. The offense had racked up four runs and starter Jameson Taillon was cruising, facing just one batter over the minimum.

Then in the sixth, the Tigers loaded the bases against Taillon and Kerry Carpenter hit a grand slam.

Not perfect. But late in the game, the Cubs scraped across two more runs for the win, on an eighth-inning RBI single from Gomes and some ninth-inning small ball.

“I’m not scoreboard-watching or anything like that,” Gomes said. “If we go out there and take care of ourselves, things are going to work out. We keep winning ballgames and keep winning series, we’re giving us a chance to fight for a playoff.”

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