Rozner: Chicago Cubs limping to finish after brutal weekend

  • Chicago Cubs' Willson Contreras (40) yells at home plate umpire Chris Guccione after striking out during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in Chicago.

    Chicago Cubs' Willson Contreras (40) yells at home plate umpire Chris Guccione after striking out during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in Chicago.

 
 
Updated 9/22/2019 5:56 PM

What else can possibly go wrong?

It's a question Chicago Cubs fans have been asking almost daily for the last month, thinking this run of bad luck, bad play and bad injuries has to stop at some point.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And clearly it doesn't, the proof being Kris Bryant on a Sunday at Wrigley Field that ended with another crushing defeat.

When Bryant hit the first base bag in the bottom of the third, slipping and injuring an ankle and maybe a knee, unable to walk on his own and helped off the field, it felt like an appropriate way to end the baseball season on the North Side.

Another nail -- if not the final nail -- in the coffin.

The Cubs haven't been eliminated, and though they get the hapless Pirates for three this week, it certainly felt like the Cubs were cooked as Bryant limped off the field and the team limped into the final week of the season, six games on the road to conclude 2019 after losing yet another game in the ninth inning Sunday.

You can't say the Cubs have quit -- or quit on their manager. Bryant was busting down the line trying to beat the double play at a rather nondescript moment of the game, just doing what he's supposed to do.

There have been too many injuries and defections to mention them all, but when you lose Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist and Willson Contreras at various times, and sometimes several at the same time, it's going to be tough to hold it together.

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Meanwhile, starters haven't been going deep -- though Yu Darvish was brilliant Sunday -- and the bullpen has been atrocious, even before Craig Kimbrel became the poster boy for their late-season misery.

The result is the Cubs are 4 games behind the two wild-card leaders with six games remaining, meaning they have to win them all and get a lot of help to have a chance at a fifth straight postseason appearance.

If they don't, this season will be talked about with the worst Cubs collapses, but they're 9-12 in September and had won five straight before the current six-game losing streak.

It will be compared unfavorably to 2004, which really was arguable the worst collapse in franchise history. That Cubs team was good enough to win the World Series and choked away tough games against terrible teams the final 10 days of the season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

This Cubs team is also losing tough games, but has there been a point the last three months -- as they played .500 baseball -- when you thought the Cubs were good enough to beat the Dodgers, Braves, Astros or Yankees?

Yeah, this is nothing like 2004. That was a loaded roster that underachieved and then flat out gagged.

These Cubs are just what they appear to be, not good enough right now at any part of the game to carry those who aren't getting it done, or the ones too banged up to contribute.

Witness Joe Maddon letting Darvish try to finish his own game Sunday after Kimbrel lost the game in the 10th inning Thursday, and then blew another game Saturday in the ninth inning.

Darvish was unable to close it out himself -- with help from a huge mistake by Albert Almora, who broke the wrong way on a triple -- and the result was another devastating defeat, the Cubs' sixth straight loss -- the last five all by a run -- after a five-game win streak against the Padres, Pirates and Reds that had the locals dancing in the streets again.

"It is what it is." Maddon said after the Cards' 3-2 victory Sunday. "You don't cry. You don't sulk. You come back and play the next game. I have no issues with our ballclub. They played hard."

Oddly enough, the worse it gets the harder it is to point a finger at the manager, who can only work with what he's got, and what he's been working with the last couple of weeks has been either bad or hurt -- or both.

Add up all you've seen the last week and it's OK to admit what you already know.

It's time to locate a fork.

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