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Cubs playoff update: Will they rebound from a series loss to the Pirates?

Ryan Herrera Avatar
September 22, 2023

It was just a tough, tough loss for the Cubs on Thursday, as they’ve now dropped four straight series. Two weeks ago, they held a firm lead on the second National League Wild Card spot with the division title still very much in play. Now, their playoff outlook seems… well, not great.

All is not lost, of course. With nine games left on the schedule, a strong end to the season would give them a real shot at a postseason appearance — their first after a 162-game regular season in five years. But they need to turn things around, and they need to turn them around fast.

Here is CHGO’s daily update on the Cubs’ postseason hopes and where things stand with the rest of the playoff contenders.

Play of the Day

This could’ve been the momentum-shifting double play the Cubs needed trailing by just one run in the top of the ninth. Instead, the Pirates got a runner to third with one out, and it led to the game-deciding three-run homer.

Quote of the Day

“That’s not a good team that just took two out of three from us — or not our caliber team, I believe. We’ve just got to turn it around. It’s on me. It’s on the guys in that room. … We’ve got to be better in a lot of aspects of baseball. Come back tomorrow. Got nine left, thank goodness. Got a lot of games left to play good, clean baseball, and this group is capable of doing that” — David Ross, in a very honest postgame presser.

Standings

The Brewers’ win Thursday pushed them eight games ahead of the Cubs in the NL Central and effectively ended the division race, even with three games left between them at the end of the season. So, earning a wild card bid is essentially Cubs’ only shot at the playoffs.

Their loss to the Pirates, however, would have moved them out of the playoffs had the season ended Thursday. The Marlins had an off day, and by gaining a 1/2 game in the standings with the Cubs’ loss, they moved into a tie for the last wild card spot. But remember, there’s no more Game 163. Tiebreakers, starting with head-to-head record, will determine any ties at the end of the season. And since the Cubs lost the season series between the two teams, Miami would win the tiebreaker.

The Diamondbacks and Reds (who both hold the tiebreaker over the Cubs) were also off Thursday, meaning they too gained a 1/2 game on the Cubs. The Phillies (also a tiebreaker winner) beat the Mets, putting them five games up on Chicago, while the Giants (who the Cubs beat in the season series) lost to the Dodgers, keeping them three games back.

You might also have to keep in mind the Padres, who did lose to the Cubs four out of seven times this season. While they’re four games back in the wild card race, they’ve won seven straight and have a slim chance at making the postseason.

Schedules

The Cubs complete have one last home series with the Rockies in town this weekend. Then, after an off day Monday, they’ll head to Atlanta for a three-game series before ending the regular season with three in Milwaukee.

Here are the remaining schedules for the the other top-six teams in the wild card hunt:

  • Phillies: vs. NYM (3), vs. PIT (3), @ NYM (3)
  • Diamondbacks: @ NYY (3), @ CWS (3), vs. HOU (3)
  • Reds: vs. PIT (3), @ CLE (2), @ STL (3)
  • Marlins: vs. MIL (3), @ NYM (3), @ PIT (3)
  • Giants: @ LAD (3), vs. SD (3), vs. LAD (3)

Odds

According to FanGraphs’ playoff projections, the Cubs’ odds at clinching a wild card spot fell to 33.3 percent entering Friday. Among the top-six teams in the race, the Phillies (100 percent), Diamondbacks (86.5 percent) and Marlins (54.1 percent) are given better odds than the Cubs. The Reds (24.4 percent) aren’t far behind, while the Giants (1.1 percent) are remote contenders.

Again, still keep in mind the Padres, whose winning streak has now given them a 0.6 percent shot at the wild card.

Today’s pitching matchup

Inconsistency has plagued Jameson Taillon’s (7-10, 5.27 ERA) season.

He began his Cubs career 2-6 with a 6.93 ERA in his first 14 starts (the Cubs went 2-12 in those games). Then, he seemingly turned his season around with a gem in the Bronx, going 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA from starts 15-20.

But the struggles returned following that last one (a strong performance in Queens), as he’s since gone 0-4 with a 5.54 ERA in his last seven outings. While he did have three quality starts in that stretch, he gave up 20 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings in the four others. Again, inconsistency has been Taillon’s biggest hurdle in 2023.

For the Cubs to kick off this last nine-game stretch strong, they need Taillon to deliver.

The Rockies will counter with rookie Noah Davis (0-2, 9.58 ERA). Davis hasn’t even started a game in the big leagues since June 20. His last two appearances (on June 24 and on Sunday) have been in relief, but considering he threw seven innings (105 pitches) in a Triple-A start nine days ago, he should be sufficiently stretched out for a regular start if the Cubs can’t jump on him early.

Tweet of the Day

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