Win streak ends, but can Cubs surprise success help for future?

There is one obvious negative to the Cubs' sudden win streak.

Their spot in next year's draft is on track to land around the tenth pick in the first round, when it could have been No. 5 or 6 if they kept losing at a rapid pace.

Are there any positives to the Cubs' September surprise? Well, there could be based on how things are aligned in the organization.

The winning streak ended at seven in a row as the Cubs lost to Cincinnati 4-3 on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. The Cubs got their runs on 3 solo homers by Willson Contreras, Rafael Ortega and Ian Happ.

Before the game, Contreras spoke highly of the Cubs' new mix, which features relatively few players from the 2016 World Series team.

"They come with a lot of energy, with a lot of hunger and I think they're ready to fight, they're ready to win a lot of baseball games," Contreras said. "I've been watching games from the IL and they're looking good. They're doing just fine. I know that next year, (management is) probably going to make some moves, but there's a lot of talent in this lineup."

If the Cubs did find under-the-radar guys who are capable of being everyday players in the majors, then they could conceivably add a couple of free agents this winter and fill out the lineup with players from this group.

Ortega, Patrick Wisdom, Frank Schwindel and Matt Duffy are all around 30 years old. Meanwhile, outside of outfielder Brennan Davis, the Cubs' most promising position prospects are in Single A or below.

So in theory, the current Cubs could sort of hold down the fort until the young guys are ready. That is, assuming those prospects will be ready in a few years, which is never a sure thing in baseball.

The downside is what if the current Cubs, who have been so good lately, don't have it in them to string together good seasons?

MLB history is filled with guys who start strong, then fizzle out after a few years as pitchers discover their weaknesses at the plate. In some ways, that happened to the 2016 Cubs as a whole.

Schwindel is flying high right now. He was named NL player of the week Tuesday and according to ESPN stats, he's the first player in 40 years to record four straight game-winning hits in the sixth inning or later.

But the Cubs are already seeing some regression in players who have been here longer. Over the last 30 days, Wisdom is among the MLB leaders in home runs with 8, but he's hit just .198 with a strikeout rate of close to 50 percent. After hitting .368 in July, Ortega was at .227 in September before Tuesday's pinch-hit home run.

This group of Cubs players has been fun to watch at times because so many of them have been overlooked, not given a chance for consistent playing time in the majors, but stuck with it and are enjoying the ride with the Cubs.

"They should take it personally," Contreras said. "I know a few guys have been in different organizations and right now they have the opportunity to be an every day player with the Cubs and they're doing amazing. I think no one expected them to be as good as they are right now."

That group includes Adrian Sampson, Tuesday's starting pitcher, who was let go by Texas. Sampson got off to a rough start, giving up a leadoff homer to Jonathan India and then a solo shot to Nick Castellanos in the top of the first, but he got through 5 innings with just the 2 runs allowed.

Trailing 2-1, the Cubs would have tied it in the sixth, but a double off the wall by Wisdom stuck in the ivy, preventing Happ from scoring from first. The Reds scored twice in the eighth against Manuel Rodriguez to make it 4-1.

Ortega and Happ hit their home runs in the bottom of the eighth, and Happ's 20th homer of the season came right after Reds shortstop Kyle Farmer robbed Schwindel of a hit on a pop fly over his head.

"They just jumped on me real quick." Sampson said. "I wasn't as fine in that first inning and didn't really change much of my plan. I just made better pitches as it went on. You've got to give them credit. They just jumped on some pitches early, but I thought I limited the damage after that."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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