Cubs’ tough home stretch gets tougher with Sunday rainout, hot Brewers on deck
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WASHINGTON — Days off? The Cubs don’t need no stinking days off.
They’d better hope not, anyway. Because they’re all gone.
When the road trip from hell concluded with a third consecutive day of steady rain and another rainout Sunday in Washington, the Cubs were arm-twisted into a makeup game at 3:05 p.m. Thursday — shoe-horned between a Wednesday night home game against the Brewers and a Friday afternoon home game against the Reds.
Sunday already represented the 20th day of a 23-games-in-23-days grind through six cities.
Make it 30 in 30 and seven cities, including their Sept. 17-19 trip to Arizona. By the time the Cubs collapse into their last scheduled day off Sept. 20, it already will have been compromised by a projected 5 a.m. arrival in Chicago after the night game in Phoenix.
“This has got to be the worst road trip I think most of us have been on,” said Kris Bryant, who only returned from the disabled list Sept. 1, near the start of this 11-day, four-city trip that ended in Washington, where the Cubs spent more time in rain delays (10 hours, 56 minutes) than in actual game action (10 hours, zero minutes).
“Hopefully, we can get through this and the last three weeks, the majority of the games are at home,” Bryant said. “That’s going to be huge.”
Other than returning to Chicago and more favorable forecasts, it won’t get easier anytime soon.
While the Cubs were rained out Friday, then swept by the Nationals on Saturday in a rain-swamped doubleheader, and rained out again Sunday, the Brewers won their last three games to close to two games behind the division-leading Cubs.
And guess who’s coming to town for the next three nights?
Even with the Thursday back-and-forth to Washington, when the effects of Hurricane Florence are expected to make the weather there worse than Sunday, 16 of the Cubs’ final 20 games are at Wrigley Field.
Only the Red Sox and Yankees have better home records than the Cubs.
But it’s a fine and weary line the Cubs walk as they head home trying to close out a third consecutive NL Central title with second-place Milwaukee and third-place St. Louis in wild-card position as they try to chase down the front-runners.
“This is a first with this intensity throughout the entire weekend, especially this time of the year,” manager Joe Maddon said of the absurdity of five rain delays that averaged more than two hours in less than a 48-hour span. “It’s unusual to be in this position right now, but we’ve done it before. Not been into this weather-related stuff as heavily as we are right now. But there’s nothing you can do about it, man. You just do it.”
And even if Sunday’s rainout means a third meeting against Cy Young favorite Max Scherzer (17-6) on Thursday, the Cubs say they’re “fine,” “confident,” and ready for a sprint down the stretch whether they get a breather or not.
“You put yourself in good position at this time of the year, and now this is playoff baseball we’re getting into,” said veteran Ben Zobrist, who at 37, seems only to be getting stronger the second half. “When the rubber meets the road, then you have to execute. And that’s what we’re coming into, the execution time.
“I’ve been on teams where you’re behind and you’re just surviving. I don’t feel that way about this club. I feel like we still have a lot of legs left in us as a team.”