If the Cubs are going to catch the Cardinals in the NL Central, overtake the Nationals in the Wild-Card race or hold off the Brewers, they're going to have to do so without the help of some key players down the stretch.
The Cubs were already feeling the effects of those injuries even before Anthony Rizzo went down with a nasty-looking ankle injury Sunday afternoon.
The good news is Rizzo appears to have avoided a fracture, as initial X-rays were negative. However, he will have an MRI Monday to determine the severity of his sprained ankle and will likely be sidelined for at least a few days, if not longer.
Rizzo's absence is huge, both offensively and defensively, as he remains the cornerstone of their infield with his Gold Glove work at first base. He also recently stepped into the leadoff role and completely changed the complexion of a Cubs lineup that has been waiting for consistent production out of the top spot all season.
Beyond Rizzo, the Cubs are also still unsure when they're going to see Javy Baez (fractured left thumb), Craig Kimbrel (right elbow inflammation) or Addison Russell (concussion) back on the field.
Baez suffered his thumb injury while sliding headfirst into second base on Sept. 1. An MRI on Sept. 9 showed the hairline fracture and he is expected to miss the rest of the regular season.
The Cubs don't yet have a timeline for Baez's return, but are holding out hope he can help the team in some way if they make it to October. He has been at home recovering in recent days, but will rejoin his teammates in Chicago at some point this week.
The Cubs have also been without Kimbrel since Sept. 1, but he threw a 20-pitch bullpen Sunday morning and came away from it feeling good. If he responds/recovers well Monday, he will face hitters in some capacity mid-week, likely in a simulated game.
Russell was placed on the 7-day IL Sunday due to a concussion he suffered last weekend in Milwaukee when he was hit in the face with a 94 mph fastball. The IL move is retroactive to Sept. 12, meaning he cannot play until at least Thursday, Sept. 19 (though even that is in doubt since head injuries do not carry clear timelines for recovery).
Rookie Nico Hoerner will remain as the Cubs shortstop in the interim.
Kris Bryant has also been dealing with right knee inflammation that has forced him out of action at various points over the last couple months, including Sept. 8 and 9. But Bryant received a cortisone shot in his knee early last week and has been on a tear since, with 5 home runs in 6 games since returning to the lineup. Bryant went 3-for-5 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI in Sunday's game.
"It's just a more assertive approach," Joe Maddon said. "There's no tentativeness attached to it. That's what I'm seeing. There's no guardedness. Whether it's that, 'my knee's gonna hurt' or 'I'm just trying to put the ball in play' - those two thoughts are out."
After wrapping up a three-game sweep of the Pirates at Wrigley Field, the Cubs will host the Cincinnati Reds from Monday through Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Nationals and Cardinals will square off in St. Louis while the Brewers get set to host the Padres at Miller Park.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream