MILWAUKEE — If it feels like every Cubs game over the last month has been important, that’s because it has been. The Cubs will reach the official halfway point of the season Wednesday, and while the old adage is true — there’s lots of baseball to be played — they also can’t be wasting time.
Heading into this week’s series against the division-leading Brewers, they were in a cold stretch that grew to 4-11 over their last 15 games, including Tuesday’s 2-1 loss. They’ve gone from leading the National League Central to being in chase mode and now trail in the division by five games.
“Whenever you’re chasing the team in front of you, yeah, they’re important games,” manager David Ross said before the loss. “You get swept [in this series], that’s six games back. That’s a big number. We are at the halfway point, but they all matter, especially when you’re playing in a division. Whether it’s the bottom team or the top, I think they all matter.
“When you’re chasing the first-place team, they definitely have . . . significant importance. . . . We played some really good baseball, and so did they in this stretch. It kind of got them on a roll. I think we can do that as well — and at any part of the season. But when you get a chance to beat the team you’re chasing head- to-head, it’s important for sure.”
The Cubs’ latest stretch has been marred by a litany of injuries in what was already expected to be a difficult month. A few of the injured players are close to returning, but getting one or two back isn’t a guarantee the team’s early-season success will resume.
The Cubs will have to find their rhythm soon or risk putting themselves in a deep hole to try to climb out of in the second half.
“We’re not taking care of business,” left fielder Joc Pederson said. “So, it’s pretty frustrating … We got a long way to go. So I can’t think too much of this little rut.”
With the All-Star break approaching and the trade deadline a month away, the direction the Cubs will go in has become a daily topic. A few weeks ago, when they were one of the hottest teams, it seemed clear which direction it would be. But as their June swoon has continued, the outlook has grown murky.
They showed in May they can get out of a funk. But until they do it again, the questions aren’t going away, and the clock has started.
“We still have quite a while until the trade deadline,” said Zach Davies, who took the loss on Tuesday. “That’s typically when teams make decisions on where their season is going to go. This is a professional ballclub. They know their job and they know that there’s highs and lows of the season. Hopefully we get out of this low as quick as possible.”
“I don’t buy or sell — that’s not my job,” Ross said. “But the key is for us to represent a winning product and something that can win a division and go into the playoffs and do something special. That is what we try to produce on a daily basis here, and then the front office is involved in all that, and they’re also watching with an eye on, like, do you believe in this group and what they can do? I think we have to prove that on a nightly basis.”