Cubs drop out of playoff position with another loss to D-backs

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The season went south when the Cubs flew West.

That could turn out to be the epitaph for the 2023 Cubs, who officially fell out of playoff position by losing to Arizona 6-2 on Sunday.

They went 1-5 on this trip to Denver and Phoenix, and were swept by the Diamondbacks. After a frustrating 13-inning loss late Saturday night, the Cubs didn’t bring much fight to the series finale.

“We weren’t very good,” manager David Ross told reporters after the game. “They were better than we were, all aspects of the game. They played better defense, they pitched better, they had timelier hitting, ran the bases better. We just got beat all the way around. Bad road trip, try to wash it with the off day tomorrow and get back at it Tuesday.”

One thing to keep in mind, there are no more playoff games to determine postseason spots. It’s all based on tiebreakers and season series now, and the Cubs lose the tiebreaker to the Diamondbacks, Reds and Marlins.

So as of Sunday night, Arizona has the No. 2 wild card slot, while Miami and the Cubs are tied for the third wild card. But as mentioned above, if the season ended today, the Marlins would get the postseason nod. Getting swept by the Marlins and Reds early this season is coming back to haunt the Cubs, not to mention going 1-6 against Arizona in the past 11 days.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

It’s not like the Cubs stopped hitting. Cody Bellinger, Dansby Swanson and Seiya Suzuki have cooled off after hot stretches, but mostly it’s a case of the Cubs’ failing to turn opportunities into runs.

“It definitely hasn’t been ideal,” Bellinger said after the game. “It’s been frustrating. Overall the past week there’s been a lot of unfortunate bounces, and overall as a whole, it’s been pretty disappointing.

“But looking in the future, we’re still in a good spot. Good amount of games left to play. Just trust the group in here and myself will continue to roll and hopefully get on a hot little stretch.”

The Cubs will get another day off as they return home. This week includes three games against Pittsburgh, which is 1-9 against the Cubs this season, followed by three against Colorado, which is still 37 games below .500 even after beating the Cubs twice.

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

The last week of the season includes trips to Atlanta and Milwaukee. Those are two division leaders, but also teams that may not have anything to play for when the Cubs arrive.

“We all understand the amazing baseball we played to put us in this position,” Bellinger said. “We’ve been doing a good job of having each other’s backs, even when it hasn’t been going our way. We’re going to continue to lean on each other and continue to play.”

The story of the entire road trip was the Cubs’ inability to score runs against a string of mediocre starters. It’s rare the Cubs could even see this many high-ERA pitchers in a row, let alone lose five of six games. Sunday’s starter, Ryne Nelson, didn’t finish the fourth inning and was tagged with 2 runs, leaving his season ERA at 5.53.

“We get to those moments and have to kind of lock in, grind a little bit harder in those moments,” Ross said. “Not get too anxious. We had a lot of traffic, the at-bats are not bad. We just get in those moments and are taking the pressure off the pitcher pretty quickly.

“We’ve got to keep the pressure on. We’ve done a nice job of getting men in scoring position with the heart of our order up and just didn’t make it happen this road trip.”

This game began with Cubs starter Jordan Wicks giving up 3 runs in the first inning, the same way the series started with Justin Steele allowing an early 3-run homer. There were no home runs this time and a defensive blunder by Swanson, of all people, cost the Cubs a run. On a slow ground ball, Swanson went to second too late to force Corbin Carroll, one of the fastest players in MLB. A throw to first likely would have gotten an out.

But that was just a grain of sand in the desert that is the Cubs’ lost road trip. They were within 3-2 until Jose Cuas gave up a 2-run homer to Ketel Marte in the sixth.

The Cubs offense held to form. Ian Happ led off the game with a double and couldn’t score. Trailing 3-1 in the third, the Cubs loaded the bases with nobody out and scored just once on a Bellinger double play.

Nick Madrigal was not in Sunday’s lineup. He left the previous game early after experiencing some tightness in his hamstring, an injury that has put him on the injured list before.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        



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