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Pirates 9, Cubs 5: Wake me up when September ends

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The Cubs go from the painful to the absurd.

“Well? How did we get here?”
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

I suppose the small consolation we can take out of the Cubs’ horrific nine-game losing streak is this.

Even if — for example — the Cubs had won a second time against the Reds, split with the Cardinals and taken two of three from the Pirates, in other words winning five of the nine games and having 87 wins, they would still be two games behind the Brewers for a wild-card spot entering the final weekend. Milwaukee is a ridiculous 20-4 this month. Give them credit where it’s due; including the game in which Christian Yelich left in the first inning after fouling a baseball off his kneecap, they are 14-2 since that injury ended Yelich’s season.

“Wake me up when September ends,” indeed.

It was to be expected, I suppose, that when the Cubs ran out a lineup Thursday evening that contained not one of their regular starting players, it would score more runs than the “A lineup” did combined in the previous two games of the series in Pittsburgh.

Because baseball, I guess.

The Cubs lost to the Pirates 9-5 and thus were swept by them in Pittsburgh for the first time since May 25-27, 2012. This is also the team’s longest losing streak since 2012, when they lost 12 in a row. That streak ended after that sweep in Pittsburgh when they beat the Padres May 28, 2012 in Wrigley Field. That was so long ago that Anthony Rizzo, the longest-tenured current Cub, was still about four weeks from playing in his first Cubs game.

Do you really want to hear any PBP or see “highlights” from this game? Oh, all right, if you insist.

Here’s a highlight: Ian Happ threw out Jose Osuna trying to score in the third inning [VIDEO].

That was a good, solid throw, nice work by Happ.

Nico Hoerner, who will be a significant part of the future of this team, singled in the Cubs’ final run of the night in the seventh [VIDEO].

You don’t really need to hear more about the carnage, other than this: Jose Quintana was just awful. He got the first two outs of the game on two pitches and then fell apart, allowing two runs in the first, three more in the third and two more in the fifth before Joe Maddon ended his season. This is how bad Q has been in September:

The last two runs off Quintana were unearned due to a throwing error by Addison Russell. Had those runs been earned, Q’s season ERA would have been 4.79, worst among qualified N.L. starters.

But wait, there’s more!

I don’t get this, not at all. As noted, Quintana has had stretches this season where he was very, very good and through August he was at least a solid No. 3 or No. 4 starter. Now he stands as a guy the Cubs might not want around in 2020. The fall is stunning.

So is this:

Gallows humor: You can’t have the most blown saves if you never have a lead to blow!

Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week, don’t forget to tip your server.

I’ve had about enough of this game, and I suppose you probably have too. Looking ahead toward the weekend:

Nicholas Castellanos, as you know, needs two doubles for 60. Kyle Schwarber’s milestones are a bit farther away: three home runs for 40, nine RBI for 100. That would be a heck of a series for Kyle even if he plays in all three games. I also like this from Joe Maddon:

Feel free to translate “people” in Jordan Bastian’s tweet as “the Brewers.”

The Cubs thus hit St. Louis, where the games do mean something to the Cardinals, at their lowest point since they were a 101-loss team seven years ago. Yikes. They’ve lost five of the six games they have played in Busch Stadium so far this year, so it’s an act of complete optimism to think they can win even one of these this weekend. St. Louis is one game ahead of the Brewers for the N.L. Central title with three to play.

Anyway, the games are on the schedule, and so they will be played. There will be plenty of time to discuss this season’s issues and possible fixes to them in the coming days and weeks, and I’ll have lots to say about that starting Monday.

In the meantime: Alec Mills will start for the Cubs Friday night in St. Louis. Dakota Hudson goes for the Cardinals. Game time is 7:15 p.m. CT, and TV coverage will be via WGN. This will be WGN-TV’s final Cubs broadcast after 72 seasons. I’ll have the fifth and final part of my WGN tribute series here at 11:30 a.m. CT, and I have been told that WGN will be running many highlights from past years during the broadcast so it will definitely be worth watching. They’ll have extra commercial break time to do so, as this game is also being carried by ESPN2 (outside the Cubs market territory, should be available in the Cardinals market territory) and thus will have the longer inning breaks dictated by a national broadcast.

Three more to go, then a lot of important offseason work by Theo & Co. will begin.