Hold on to your butts.
The Cubs dropped their fourth game in five days on Wednesday, and after clinching a postseason spot Tuesday, the NL Central race remains open.
Kyle Hendricks was sharp after surrendering back-to-back solo home runs to open Wednesday’s game in Pittsburgh, continuing what has been a great month for him. But the Cubs offense struggled again in a 2-1 loss.
Thanks to the Royals' 12-3 win over the Cardinals, the Cubs magic number to clinch the NL Central is now three, with four games to play. They lead the Cardinals and Reds by 3 1/2 games for first place.
However, the Cubs will almost certainly need at least one win against the White Sox this weekend in order to clinch the division.
Quick takes from the action in Pittsburgh:
Hendricks was handed the loss on Wednesday despite pitching 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball. The right-hander allowed seven hits and was sharp after a first inning hiccup.
Adam Frazier and Ke’Bryan Hayes hit back-to-back solo home runs to open the game. It’s the first time Hendricks allowed two straight long balls to start an outing since May 1, 2018, when he did against the Rockies.
Wednesday also was Hendricks’ fifth straight quality start, all coming this month. He holds a 1.45 ERA in 37 1/3 innings this September.
For the fourth time in six games, the Cubs offense failed to score more than one run.
Anthony Rizzo picked up where he left off on Tuesday, blasting a first-inning home run to give the Cubs an early 1-0 lead. Those are the only home runs the Cubs have hit since last Tuesday, when Javier Báez went deep.
Outside of Rizzo’s home run, the Cubs went 4-for-31 offensively with a few loud outs mixed in, including 0-for-7 with RISP. Cameron Maybin had two of the hits, a pair of doubles in the fourth and sixth.
Cubs manager David Ross said Wednesday he’s optimistic third baseman Kris Bryant will return before the end of the regular season. Bryant is dealing with lower right oblique tightness.
"I'm optimistic," Ross said. "Maybe that's just my personality, so don't take that too far. But he felt better today."
Bryant went through a series of mobility tests with team trainers on Wednesday. He felt better on Wednesday than Tuesday, Ross said.
"Our whole team, right now, obviously we're not in stride like we want to be offensively, but we grind. It's a lot of credit to us for not being in sync for pretty much the whole year and grinding through and getting wins." –Anthony Rizzo postgame Tuesday, after the Cubs clinched a postseason berth.
The Cubs and Pirates wrap up their season series on Thursday at 12:35 p.m. Alec Mills (5-4, 4.14 ERA) and Chad Kuhl (1-3, 5.03 ERA) are the probable starters.