If the Cubs were going to avoid a 100-loss season, they had the right opponents at Wrigley Field: the Houston Astros.
As bad as things have gone for the Cubs, they've been even worse for the Astros, who entered Monday's series opener at Wrigley Field with a record of 53-106.
Contact information ( * required )
It wasn't to be, though, as the Astros blanked a listless looking Cubs team 3-0. The Cubs fell to 60-100, their first triple-digit losing season since the 1966 club lost 103. The 1962 Cubs also lost 103.
"We didn't have a whole lot of quality at-bats today, that's for sure," said manager Dale Sveum. "It was a little bit of sleepwalking at the plate today."
Whatever the case, the Cubs were taking very seriously this business of avoiding 100 losses as the final series of the 2012 season got under way.
"I'm going to whatever it takes," said first baseman Anthony Rizzo. "I'll bunt, I'll hit and run. I'll do whatever. If the first two guys get on, I'll push a bunt or something."
Most observers figured from the beginning this would be a rough season for the Cubs, but 100 losses bad?
"I don't think you ever expect 99 losses, but I didn't expect to compete for a World Series either," Sveum said. "That would've been icing on the cake, or we would've had to have diamonds in rough step up and do ridiculous things for us to be one of those teams that competes for a World Series and then you add pieces. We went the other way and made trades to get people in our organization.
"We knew we were behind the eight-ball to have any great season, but you never think you're going to lose 99 games either."
It may be a tough sell to a public that stayed away from Wrigley Field in increasing numbers this year, but Sveum said he felt the Cubs are headed the right way, even if it's going to take time to get there.
"It's definitely going in the right direction," he said. "There's some growing pains involved and all that as well, that we're all experiencing right now. We're all confident in the plan that Theo (president Epstein) and Jed (GM Hoyer) and those guys are putting together. We understand where we are and where we're going to get to. Sometimes it's just takes time, but we're all confident in the procedure."
At the all-star break, Sveum said relievers Shawn Camp and James Russell were the co-MVPs of the team at that time.
For the season, though, he said it had to be left fielder Alfonso Soriano.
"It would have to be Sori just because we struggled for the most part to score runs, and he's been, thank God, one entity to the puzzle that's been pretty consistent all year long," Sveum said. "Especially since May 15, it's been off the charts, what he's done since then."
Soriano has hit all 32 of his home runs since May 15. He has driven in a career-best 108 runs. Sveum said from the beginning that Soriano would put up numbers similar to those in the media guide.
"I stick to my guns on that media-guide thing," the manager said. "You get those kinds of players those kinds of at-bats, the numbers won't lie at the end of the year. That's just the way those guys are made and the way they can swing the bats."
Catcher Welington Castillo has made his case in recent weeks to be the starting catcher for next year. However it works out, Sveum said Castillo has been the Cubs' most improved player.
"Welington Castillo, as a young catcher, has impressed me so much in the last six weeks," Sveum said. "He's kind of starting to take charge now. He's not that deer in headlights that I saw 5-6 months ago at spring training, even actually about two months ago.
"What he's done the last six months has probably been the most impressive as anybody. He's the most improved guy that I've seen this season."