Cardinals Baseball Cap

Flickr photo by bk1bennett -- CC 2.0 License

Tipsheet keeps expecting the Chicago Cubs to make their push for the National League Central lead.

But bad things keep happening to that would-be dynasty on the Windy City's North Side. After winning at Milwaukee Thursday night, the Cubs lost their next three games to the Brewers to fall 4 1/2 games back of the Cardinals with 20 games to play.

"Other teams have played better than us," Cubs pitcher Jon Lester told reporters after absorbing an 8-6 loss to the Brew Crew. "The Cardinals, I think I saw something the other day, they've had the best record since the All-Star break. So, they've flat-out played better than us."

Along the way the Cubs lost infielder Javier Baez, one of their MVPs, to a broken thumb. Closer Craig Kimbrel went back on the injured list, this time with a sore elbow.

Starting pitcher Yu Darvish has encountered a some forearm soreness and slugger Kris Bryant has been in and out of the lineup with nagging knee injury.

"Normally this time of the year, we've parceled out the year to the point that we are not beat up, not tired, not hurt," Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters before Sunday's game. "This year, it's been harder to do that."

Suddenly the Cubs feel find themselves in another downward spiral. The Cubs still have seven games against the Cardinals in the final 10 games of the season, but they are in danger of falling out of range as they head to the West Coast for a four-game series at San Diego.

"Honestly, there's only one way to deal with moments like this, and that is in the moment," Maddon said during his postgame media session Sunday. "Anxiety lives in the future. You've got to stay right here, right now. Things can change just as quickly. We could win the first three games in San Diego easily and other teams could lose. You've just got to take care of yourself on a nightly basis."

For now, scoreboard watching doesn't do this team much good.

"All we can do is show up and play," Lester said. "Hopefully, I pitch better. That's all you can do. You can't sit here and mope and complain about this."

The Cubs currently hold the second wild card slot, but the torrid Diamondbacks are just 1 1/2 games back of them. The Philadelphia Phillies are two games back, as are the Brewers -- who have won five of their last seven games against the Cubs.

"These guys seem to play us extremely difficult," Lester said. "Now, you've got the D-backs making a run. Obviously, the Phillies are right there.

"That's the exciting part about having two Wild Card spots. Now, you've got four or five teams involved as opposed to just one. We've got to buckle down and play better."


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