Cubs

After going through a tough stretch, Cubs face a run of last place teams

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USA TODAY

After going through a tough stretch, Cubs face a run of last place teams

The Cubs started August with a stretch of games against good teams, but now the schedule will even out for the North Siders.

Going back to the big three-game series with the Brewers to end July, it's been a lot of baseball against quality teams for the Cubs. The Cubs hosted wildcard-leading Arizona, dropping two of three, and NL East-leading Washington, again dropping two of three.

Next up was a trip to San Francisco, which is in last in the NL West. The Cubs were unable to take the series there after winning the first game.

This weekend, the Cubs finished the brief road trip with another series with the Diamondbacks. Sunday's 7-2 win, highlighted by a 3-for-4 game for Kris Bryant and a three-run home run by Javy Baez in the eighth inning. meant a series win after losing three straight series.

The Cubs concluded the 12-game stretch, with nine of those games against teams currently in playoff spots in the National League, with a 5-7 record. At 61-55, they are a game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals after the Cardinals dropped a 6-3 game to the Braves on Sunday.

After struggling with the tough stretch, the Cubs face an easier run of games, at least on paper. The Cubs host the Reds for four games at Wrigley starting on Monday followed by three more at home against Toronto. The Reds will then host the Cubs for three more before the Cubs head to Philadelphia.

What do all of the Cubs' next opponents have in common? They're in last place in their divisions.

Based on current standings, the Cubs don't face a team above .500 until September 8 when the Brewers come to Wrigley. There are seven games against the Pirates included. The Pirates are currently 58-60, but that only puts them four games behind the Cubs.

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Where do Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis?

In the latest CubsTalk Podcast, Kelly Crull and David Kaplan look ahead to Thanksgiving and discuss the official coaching hires for the Cubs.

They also talk about where the Cubs go from here with Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, whether Alex Cobb could factor into the rotation plans and Kap goes off on the 11:30 a.m. Opening Day start time.

Check out the entire podcast here: