Commentary: Just two more games...

by - Columnist -
Brad Mills - USA Today Sports
Brad Mills - USA Today Sports

Despite my emotional ups and downs over the Cubs these last six months, I haven’t been so fired up over baseball, as I have been for this weekend. Too close for comfort, yet the epitome of excitement.

Entering play yesterday, the Cubs’ magic number was three. Kyle Hendricks put on an absolute pitching clinic, shutting down the Cardinals before they ever had a chance to get started, going a full eight innings on just over 100 pitches. As an added bonus, the offense looked alive and well for a second consecutive day, with the team managing eight runs on eight hits, and collectively going 8 for 31 (.258). While the team batting average could have been better, the Cubs absolutely capitalized on mishaps by the Cards, contributing to their eight runs.

With a final score of 8-4, the Cubs’ magic number was reduced to two.

I sat down to watch the Tigers-Brewers game last night with hopes that Detroit would do Chicago a huge favor. I was jumping out of my seat when Detroit managed to tally three runs in the top of the first off of Zach Davies, but then the Yelich-Braun duo teamed up in the second to tie it on back-to-back dingers.

The Brewers added a couple of more runs over the third and fourth innings and led 5-3 going into the eighth. With Jeimer Candelario already on first, Dawel Lugo took a 3-2 pitch from Josh Hader and delivered it over the left field wall to tie it. Again, there was hope for the Tigers.

That hope was short-lived, as Ryan Braun homered to right, on what had to be the cheapest, most generic homerun that I have ever seen in my life. The ball looked to have the potential to go out of the yard, but it didn’t have a ton of power behind it. Tigers’ right fielder, Nick Castellanos, was backing up toward the wall and looked to have a play on it. Castellanos leaped at the last moment and got a glove on it, but in a bizarre turn of events, the ball hopped out of his glove, rolled along the top edge of the wall for about five feet, then dropped over into one of the patio areas. CHEAP.

So here we are on Saturday, and the magic number remains at two. Cole Hamels (9-11, 3.87 ERA) takes on Miles Mikolas (17-4, 2.94 ERA) this afternoon, which will be no easy task, so let’s pray the Cubbies can bring their big-boy bats again today. Later tonight it’s Daniel Norris (0-5, 5.22 ERA) for Detroit, taking on Wade Miley (5-2, 2.32 ERA) for the Crew.

While eliminating the Brewers is a must, if the Cubs are to take the division, failure to do so this weekend in regulation, scheduled play, has some wide-reaching implications.

First of all, a Game 163 to decide the division, cuts the Cubs out of another much-needed day off. Rather than having Monday off to prepare for a wildcard game on Tuesday (should they fall short of their magic number), the Cubs would be forced to play Milwaukee (at Wrigley) for a sudden-death Divisional Championship game on Monday.

Should the Cubs fail to eliminate Milwaukee and subsequently lose the division title, they would face off against either the Dodgers, Cardinals or Rockies in a wildcard game on Tuesday. Eliminating the Brewers and taking the division would mean that the Cubs wouldn’t play until Thursday in the NLDS.

Further complicating this mess, is what the Cubs rotation would look like, should they be forced into a Game 163 and a wildcard spot. With no days off to reset the rotation, Jose Quintana would likely face the Brewers in the elimination game on Monday, with Jon Lester becoming the likely starter for a Tuesday wildcard game. If this becomes the case, Lester would likely be available to start again in what would be Game-3 of the NLDS.

I’m not liking the way this is potentially shaping up.

Taking the Brewers out Sunday, or better yet, today (Cubs win/Brewers loss), would mean that Joe Maddon would have the luxury of resetting the rotation to have Lester, Hamels, and Hendricks lined up to pitch in the first three games of the NLDS; MUCH better scenario.

OK, Chicago, OK, Detroit, let’s get this done.

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