Cubs manager Rick Renteria has recoiled from using the dreaded "S" word in the recent past.
That word would be "spoiler."
But that's exactly what the Cubs are these days, and they'll get plenty of chances to play the role for the rest of the season.
They got their first late-season chance at being spoilers Monday night when the Milwaukee Brewers visited Wrigley Field to begin a four-game series.
No need for a spoiler alert here as the first-place Brewers beat the Cubs 3-1 with Brewers starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo outdueling Cubs starter Jake Arrieta.
As for Cubs hitters, they drew no walks and struck out nine times, giving them 53 strikeouts and 2 walks over their last four games.
After an upcoming weekend series at New York against the Mets, the Cubs' schedule gets interesting, with home series against the Giants and Orioles next week. The Cubs have games against all of their National League Central rivals coming up, and they'll also play the Blue Jays in Toronto and the Dodgers at Wrigley Field next month.
"We're going to be playing a very tough schedule for the next 6½ weeks or so," Renteria said. "I think these young men are getting a taste now of being in the big leagues, playing against a lot of clubs that are competing for the postseason.
"We hope that we're relevant in that process in terms of how we go out and play the game, that we compete, that we continue to get better. Any club that plays well together at any given time can put together a good run.
"Some of these young men, some of them obviously came up most recently, are learning the feel of the big leagues. We're not thrust into the pennant race other than through osmosis by playing these other clubs, which is a good thing, though, because they can see what other clubs are doing that make them good."
The Cubs do have some better guns to fire down the stretch than they did the previous few years when they were hopelessly out of the race. One of those guns is pitcher Jake Arrieta, who started Monday and worked 7⅓ innings, giving up 5 hits and 2 runs. He fell to 6-4 with a 2.77 ERA.
After giving up a second-inning home run to Mark Reynolds, Arrieta retired 13 in a row before Ryan Braun opened the seventh with a single. The Brewers scored once in the seventh and got an insurance run in the ninth against Justin Grimm.
As for Arrieta, being a spoiler seems OK with him.
"The mindset stays the same," he said. "We want to come out and win ballgames. The byproduct of that is being able to have a chance to kind of spoil someone's season. But we're going to continue to fight and try to rack up as many wins as we can.
"Our schedule is going to be a tough one from here on out, but we'll be ready for it."