3 things to watch for in the last 10 games

PITTSBURGH — Playing in close games has been a staple for the Chicago Cubs this season.

They entered Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates having won each of their last four games by one run. It was the first time the Cubs had won four straight road games by one run from June 17-21, 1989, according to team historian Ed Hartig.

Overall, the Cubs’ 85 games decided by two runs or fewer are the most in Major League Baseball ahead of the Pirates (83). The Cubs are 39-46 (.459) in those games. They have also played 50 career games, the third-most in the majors.

“We’ve had a few opportunities lately where the other team has given us some gifts to help us out a little bit,” coach David Ross said Saturday. “That’s something we focused on to try to improve a little bit, but I wouldn’t say anything stood out (during this stage). I think these guys are playing hard to the end and doing some little things to help themselves.”

With 10 games remaining after their 6-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday — one in Pittsburgh, three against the Philadelphia Phillies and six in a row against the Cincinnati Reds — the Cubs need to be at least 7-3 to avoid a loss of 90. season.

Saturday could have been Wade Miley’s last outing with the Cubs this year. Miley came out in the fifth with a tight left oblique.

He felt the back of his left oblique begin to grab when he turned to make a throw to second base in the fifth inning. The missed throw resulted in a no-out error to put runners on second and third, leading to the Pirates’ five-run inning after Adbert Alzolay replaced Miley.

He has started only eight games for the Cubs due to three seasons on the disabled list: left elbow inflammation and twice due to a left shoulder strain. A free agent after the season, Miley has pitched well when she was healthy, posting a 3.34 ERA in 35 innings.

“I mean, it’s been a frustrating year, for sure,” Miley said. “But it’s also been a great learning experience for me and obviously a lot of young players that have come up and had some failures and been successful.”

As a team, the Cubs haven’t had much to play for in a while, but there are still some individual performances worth following over the last week and a half.

A left finger injury has plagued Patrick Wisdom since late August, affecting his ability to keep up after costing him 14 games on the disabled list.

But after hitting a home run in two of his last three games before Saturday, Wisdom is trying to finish strong. He’s one shy of 25 home runs this season, and he’s coming off a franchise-record 28 homers in 2021.

If Wisdom hits one more home run, he would become the fourth Cubs third baseman to record multiple 25-homer seasons, joining Ron Santo (eight times), Aramis Ramirez (seven) and Kris Bryant (four). He nearly sank on Saturday. PNC Park kept his 374-foot fly ball to left field in the sixth inning, which would be a home run in 28 of 30 furlongs.

“Swinging on good pitches, controlling my swing — sometimes I swing a lot of swings that are probably max effort, so I tell myself to adapt it a little bit and not hit as hard,” Wisdom said Friday after hitting a home run “And those are the good ones, and the bad ones are the ones that I do too hard. I don’t know if it’s making up for my finger feeling iffy.”

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The schedule is starting to work against catcher and shortstop.

Both players have held out hope of returning before the season is over from their respective injuries. Hoerner (right triceps strain) threw pitches into the field before Saturday’s game for the second time in this series, while Contreras (sprained left ankle) returned to batting practice Saturday after vigorously testing his ankle on base Friday, including twists that hadn’t felt very good. previous attempt.

For Contreras, the Cubs’ upcoming six-game homestand potentially represents his last time playing in front of a home crowd at Wrigley Field. While he’s already weathered the emotions and the goodbyes during the last few home games leading up to the trade deadline, this will likely feel more final as Contreras, an impending free agent, heads into the offseason. A return sometime next week would provide yet another opportunity for the World Series champion to garner the plaudits of Cubs fans.

Hoerner has nothing to prove by returning before the end of the season other than getting more at-bats and experience. His complete game has made him the Cubs’ most consistent player this year, especially when you consider his value with his elite defense at shortstop. He has shown that it is worth building around.

The Cubs set a major league record last season when they used 69 players, and they’re about to set a new mark on the pitching side.

Through Friday’s game, the Cubs have used 42 pitchers, including three position players. That ties the most in a single season of any major league team, matching the 2019 Mariners, 2021 Orioles and 2021 Mets.

Had Monday’s 10-3 loss to the Miami Marlins gotten a little more out of hand, Ross would have turned to a pitcher and considered using first baseman Alfonso Rivas if the situation arose. Rivas appeared in 28 games during his first two seasons at the University of Arizona, posting a 9.20 ERA in 29⅓ innings. He could be the one if the Cubs are part of a big game in these last 10 games.

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