After getting swept by Cardinals, Cubs know they can't take anything for granted

After getting swept by Cardinals, Cubs know they can't take anything for granted

"There's still a lot of baseball left."

That's the standard line from Major League Baseball managers and players whenever media members get a little too caught up in the ups and downs of a 162-game season.

The Cubs woke up Monday — in advance of a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals — 12.5 games up in the NL Central, the largest division lead in franchise history. 

The Cubs (47-23) will go to sleep Wednesday night with only a 9.5 game lead in the NL Central after being swept out of Wrigley by those same Cardinals (38-33).

It was a simple reminder that this Cardinals team won 100 games last year and has been a perennial World Series contender over the last decade-plus. 

It was also a reminder that more than half the season remains and a large lead can evaporate in a hurry.

Yet the Cubs (47-23) won't hit the panic button. They've known all along they can't take their hot start for granted.

"Honestly, man, I'm fine," Joe Maddon said after the Cubs' 7-2 loss Wednesday. "The first two games, we played really well and lost. Those are actually tougher to deal with. Today's game was just, they just clubbed us. Give them credit.

"...They played well and they beat us. That's it. That's all I got. You're gonna lose some games."

Jake Arrieta got the call to start Wednesday's game, but the reigning NL Cy Young winner couldn't put a stop to his team's mini losing streak.

However, he insists the mood in the clubhouse hasn't changed after the Cubs were swept for the first time in almost a year.

"Not really," Arrieta said. "We're in a good spot. We're gonna take our lumps. In May, I think, we lost several in a row. The mindset stayed the same. I don't see this being any different. 

"We'll adjust. We had to deal with some adversity. Some guys going down. But it's about how we pick each other up and bridge the gap until those guys get healthy and until we're at full strength."

The Cubs wound up 3-3 on the short homestand thanks to a sweep of the spiraling Pirates over the weekend.

But they experienced firsthand how the game of baseball giveth and taketh away.

"It's always wonderful if you're going to somebody else's ballpark and win like that. No doubt," Maddon said. "But there's a long time left. We're not taking anything for granted on our side, either. We gotta play. 

"It ended up being a .500 homestand. Our sights are set higher than that. But you can't be upst with that, either. The Pirates left feeling the same way that we feel right now. It's just how this thing rolls back and forth. 

"We gotta move on and we have a long road trip. We'll be ready to play. We got Jonny [Lester] tomorrow. Happy about that. I don't get too involved or emotionally upset about these kinds of moments. It's gonna happen. It happened. Move on."

Still, the Cubs are sitting at 9.5 games up in the division before July 4 has even come along, tied for the largest division lead in the league.

"When you're 10 games ahead, you look at it that way," Miguel Montero said. "Nothing you can do about it. It's over. You just gotta move on. Good thing we have a pretty good lead. We just can't take it for granted. 

"We just want to keep it there. Obviously they came here, they played us pretty good, so other than that, you can't live with the past. You gotta move on. We already lost. Nothing we can do about it. We just gotta go to Miami and play better."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 30th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa hit the 30-homer threshold on June 21, 1998 in only his 71st game of the season. For perspective, the 2018 Cubs leader in homers on June 21 is Javy Baez with 14 and Mike Trout leads all of baseball with only 23.

At this point, Mark McGwire was ahead of Sosa, but the Cubs slugger was pulling closer. McGwire had 33 dingers on June 21 while Ken Griffey Jr. had 28 and Greg Vaughn had 25.

Sosa' June 21 homer came off Tyler Green and was his 5th blast of the series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field that year. But the Cubs lost that series, despite Sosa's efforts.

Fun fact: Sosa drove in 10 runs in the three-game series with the Phillies that summer while the rest of his teammates combined for only 9 RBI.

Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of


Podcast: Wild week at Wrigley wraps up with Cubs showing what they’re made of

The Cubs have been a different team the last six weeks, looking a lot more like the resilient bunch from 2016 than the sluggish 2017 squad that lacked energy. After some wacky circumstances Monday and a tough loss in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Cubs came out and showed what they’re made of in the last two games of the series against the Dodgers, a team that knocked them out of postseason play last fall.

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki sum up the longest short homestand (or shortest long homestand?), updating the status of Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs pitching staff and how the team is rounding into form as the season’s halfway mark approaches.

Check out the entire podcast here: