WATCH: Joe Maddon discusses Crosstown Classic finale, second-half expectations


by - Senior Writer -
Cubs skipper Joe Maddon considers the hotly contested National League Central to be a "cannibalistic" division. (Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports)
Cubs skipper Joe Maddon considers the hotly contested National League Central to be a "cannibalistic" division. (Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — Despite losing 3-1 to the rival Chicago White Sox as part of a lackluster performance in the season finale of the Crosstown Classic on Sunday, the Chicago Cubs remained atop the National League Central standings, as the second-place Milwaukee Brewers remained a half of a game behind by losing in their last contest of the unofficial first half of the regular season. Cubs manager Joe Maddon addressed the media at Guaranteed Rate Field following the loss against the White Sox and discussed the intense divisional race.

"It's a cannibalistic kind of a division," Maddon said.

Even though none of them boast an impressive record, all five National League Central teams are in the running for the pennant heading into the All-Star break. With that being said, Maddon recognizes that the Cubs are going to have to step up if they are to separate themselves from the pack. Stating that the Cubs "have to extract more out of the offense," Maddon cited Sunday's low-scoring defeat as an example of that. Maddon referenced the Cubs' tremendous talent in the batting order but also claimed that the other teams in the division boast a similar level of talent.

"When it comes down to looking at a lot of these teams, offensively, I can't tell you that we have the edge," Maddon said while discussing the Cubs' chances of winning the division.

Cubs shortstop Javier Baez told reporters that it was "good to know" when he was informed that the Brewers lost on Sunday afternoon, meaning that the Cubs would enter the All-Star break in first place. Baez admitted, though, that the Cubs had been "up and down" but told the press that the Cubs "were not worried about it." Speaking on the same topic, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant was a bit more perturbed, telling the press that the Cubs "can do a lot of things better."

"We're just as greedy as any fan out there," Bryant said. "We want to be 10 games ahead. There's a lot more breathing room, but it just hasn't gone that way for us this year."

The Cubs have been fairly underwhelming since late May and have been shells of themselves since mid-June, with the recent slump drawing into question whether or not Maddon should be on the hot seat, as well as whether or not the Cubs' front office should make significant roster changes ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. Bryant acknowledged that it has been frustrating to endure the recent downturn but expressed confidence that the Cubs can return to form and claim the division title.

"First place is great, but we've missed a lot of opportunities to separate ourselves," Bryant said. "That's the frustrating part. We just have to play better. I know we can do it."

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