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bad umpiring, bad luck, and other bullets

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It didn’t look that way to me.
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Lee Smith Day!

I’d actually be happier if I didn’t see so many balls barreled and caught, setting aside for a minute the issue of bad home plate umpiring, which is ongoing. So often a shutout is just the reflection of a momentary ineptitude — all teams get that from time to time. But this wasn’t that. The Cubs hit any number of atom balls, the problem being that none of them left the building. Frustrating to hear the crack of the bat and see the ball settle comfortably into the glove.

“That’s a tough shutout,” Maddon said. “I can’t say we swung the bats poorly, because we didn’t. There was a lot of bad luck involved today.

“It doesn’t show up. People think you’re nuts when you score zero runs, but overall, I thought we actually played well today, pitched well today and they beat us today.”

That was only exacerbated by the spotty umpiring, ably covered by Al in his recap. So the winning streak goes by the boards and so does the chance to regain a share of first tonight or tomorrow... but the Cardinals (75-59) are 8-2 in their last 10 and that’s not going to continue, especially as they are in a stretch of 11 games in nine days which began Saturday. The Cubs (73-62) are a very sustainable 6-4, 2½ games back. The division lead is closer than the top wild card spot, where the Nationals (76-58) lead by 3½ games. But the Nationals are also sporting a SSS 8-2 record and are unlikely to maintain that pace for long.

Philadelphia (69-65), Arizona (70-66) and Milwaukee (69-66) are on the bubble. Atlanta (83-54) and L.A. (88-50) have chokeholds on their respective divisions. The Braves haven’t done so well against the N.L. West this year (16-14). The Dodgers have the worst record against the Central (22-11) and are perhaps the most consistent and formidable. But they have holes, too.

“It’s been all year,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “It’s been a dogfight for us all year, just as far as getting on a roll. So, there’s highs and lows and hopefully we can go on a high for the next two months and not look back. If another punch comes, we’ll be able to take it.”

Ben Zobrist was already activated Saturday night and other reinforcements will likely arrive later today. Let’s see how the dance goes, and hope the Cubs aren’t put down. Albert Almora Jr., Robel Garcia, who else?

Here’s today’s Cubs News and Notes. As always, * means autoplay on, or annoying ads, or both (directions to remove for Firefox and Chrome). {$} means paywall. {$} means limited views. Italics are often used here as sarcasm font.

Food for thought:

Thanks for reading.