Column: Which way will the ball bounce down the stretch for the Chicago Cubs?

I awakened Sunday morning to a textual content from a Chicago Cubs fan who had a sleepless night time after watching their 13-inning loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“I guess the good lord doesn’t want the Cubs to win,” the textual content learn.

He was referring to Harry Caray’s name of a 3-2 win over the Montreal Expos on Aug. 2, 1984, earlier than any of the present Cubs gamers had been born. Expos star Pete Rose hit a liner off nearer Lee Smith that deflected into the air and was caught on the fly by shortstop Dave Owen, who threw to first for a game-ending double play.

“Cubs win, Cubs win, what a lucky break,” Caray yelled. “The good lord wants the Cubs to win.”

Flash ahead 39 years later to Saturday night time, when the Cubs had been one out from beating the Diamondbacks in 13 innings earlier than Emmanuel Rivera hit a line drive that deflected off reliever Hayden Wesneski’s proper elbow and into the air towards shortstop Dansby Swanson.

Instead of operating in and making an attempt a game-ending catch off the ricochet, Swanson inexplicably let the ball drop to attempt to throw Rivera out at first base. He couldn’t get a grip on it, and the tying run scored.

“Oh, no,” Marquee analyst Jim Deshaies mentioned of the unlucky flip of occasions in decibels a lot decrease than Ron Santo’s well-known “Oh, no” name throughout a blown recreation within the 1998 wild-card race.

The Diamondbacks then received 7-6 on Gabriel Moreno’s RBI single, sending the Cubs to their fourth straight loss, and adopted up with a 6-2 win Sunday, sweeping the sequence and taking up the second National League wild-card spot. The Cubs had been tied for the third spot getting into Monday with the Miami Marlins.

“In hindsight, if I could have come in and tried to dive and caught it, that probably would’ve been the best move,” Swanson advised reporters of the ball that deflected off Wesneski. “I was setting up to try and catch and throw to first base, but obviously, in hindsight, would have tried to dive and catch it in the air.”

Whether some larger energy guided the deflection to Owen in ’84 or allowed the deflection off Wesneski to bounce Saturday is a query greatest left to theologians. But I do know the Cubs received the National League East by 6 1/2 video games in 1984, so the wild win over the Expos in early August wasn’t essential within the huge scheme of issues.

Whether the crushing 13-inning loss to the Diamondbacks impacts the ’23 Cubs within the playoff push stays to be seen. But in the event that they miss the playoffs by one recreation, it will likely be a straightforward one for followers to look again on in anger — having watched Cubs relievers waste leads within the tenth, eleventh and thirteenth innings in an excruciating loss.

The Cubs could make it moot by making the playoffs.

They nonetheless have shot, albeit inferior to on Sept. 6 after they trailed the Milwaukee Brewers by 1 1/2 video games within the National League Central and held a 3 1/2 recreation cushion over the Marlins for the second wild-card spot.

They start their ultimate six-game homestand of the season Tuesday towards the Pittsburgh Pirates and end up over the weekend with three video games towards the Colorado Rockies, the worst group within the league. The ball is of their fingers.

Marquee Sports Network postgame hosts Ryan Dempster and Carlos Peña identified after Sunday’s loss that for those who advised followers again in late June when the Cubs had been 10 video games below .500 that they’d be within the wild-card race with two weeks left, most individuals would’ve been completely happy.

That’s a technique of taking a look at it.

The different manner is the Cubs had agency management of the second wild-card spot earlier than dropping eight of their final 10 video games towards the Diamondbacks and Rockies, scoring 23 mixed runs in these eight losses.

Bellinger, their most respected participant, has hit .205 over that 10-game stretch with a .564 OPS. He carried the group in July and August, however wants to select up the slack over the subsequent two weeks if he plans to play in October. The championship vibes he and Swanson introduced into the clubhouse in spring coaching will now be examined.

With the potential of a Wild Card Sseries in Wrigley Field dwindling, this may very well be the ultimate time Cubs followers see the group that’s supplied them with essentially the most entertaining season since 2018, after they battled the Brewers to Game 163 after which misplaced the wild-card recreation to the Rockies.

Kyle Hendricks, the final Cubs participant remaining from the 2016 champions, may very well be making his ultimate residence begin on Thursday towards the Pirates. Hendricks has a $16 million membership choice for 2024 which may very well be picked up, however who is aware of? Hendricks’s comeback season proved to skeptics he was removed from performed, however he’ll be 34 subsequent 12 months and the Cubs have youthful and cheaper choices for the rotation.

It additionally may very well be the top of watching Bellinger and Marcus Stroman in blue pinstripes, so count on a standing ovation or two for a few fan favorites.

Bellinger, who got here to Chicago with modest expectations and proved to be the perfect signing of Jed Hoyer’s presidency, clearly is headed at no cost company and an enormous payday. Whether Hoyer has the abdomen to offer him the most important contract in franchise historical past — after doing so with Swanson’s $177 million deal final winter — is unknown. Rest assured Cubs followers will attempt to persuade Bellinger that is the place he must be.

Stroman, pitching in aid with none minor league outings after rehabbing from his rib cartilage fracture, additionally figures to obtain a rousing welcome. The Cubs clearly would’ve fallen even farther than 10 video games below .500 with out Stroman’s dominating efficiency within the first 2 1/2 months, together with the “Stropener” on Opening Day. With an opt-out clause he’s anticipated to train if he proves he’s wholesome down the stretch, Stroman may very well be pitching at Wrigley for the final time as a Cub.

Also on faucet this week would be the extremely anticipated Wrigley debut of Bellinger’s inheritor obvious, Pete Crow-Armstrong, essentially the most hyped Cubs prospect since Kris Bryant in 2015. Crow-Armstrong flashed some leather-based on his first highway journey however continues to be searching for his first hit after beginning out 0-for-8.

Recall that Ryne Sandberg began his Cubs profession in 1982 hitless in his first 20 at-bats, and 1-for-32. Sandberg turned out OK, as will Crow-Armstrong.

Seasons come and go, each leaving their very own distinct mark on Cubs followers. Some finish with promise, and others with ache.

Whether this one can be remembered as a brand new starting or as an agonizing end is why we will’t cease watching.