The baseball season is now down to a long weekend, with the Sox and Cubs both in miserable slumps. As a pessimist, I should have anticipated this, but this season is unprecedented. It all started back in March when we were supposed to attend a Spring Training game between the two Chicago foes. It was cancelled, along with many of our plans this year. When the season finally officially began on the 24th of July, I did not have great expectations for the league to make it to the postseason. The Cubs jumped to the top of their division but stumbled against the slower-starting Sox in their first series. The Pale Hose finally claimed the top spot in the AL Central over the Twins and Indians, only to falter down the stretch. I’ve watched them go 3-7 against the Twins, Indians, and Reds in the past week or so.
The last two nights have been particularly painful for the White Sox, losing in walk-off fashion to Cleveland on both occasions. On the other side of town, the Cubs lost another one this morning, their third straight, to the last-place Pirates. They could have helped the Sox in the series before that against the Twins, but Minnesota took two of the three. They did top the Indians in two of three, after a 12-0 drubbing of the Brewers and a no-hitter by Alec Mills. However, the poor-hitting Cubbies are now in danger of being caught by the Cardinals, Reds, and Brewers. The Covid-plagued regular season ironically all comes down to a three-game series against the Sox at Comiskey (excuse me – Guaranteed Rate). For a historical first, they each play in role in the other’s playoff fate this late in the season. Sadly, I just watched the Sox blow another early lead by the Indians – at least it’s not the last inning last the previous two, although there’s still three innings to go. It’s looking like a repeat of last night’s disappointment, with the White Sox up by one again after a Yoan Moncada triple in the 7th. If the Indians make it a four-game sweep, the Sox could fall to a full-game behind the division leading Twins, who are idle today, and could potentially face the perennial powerhouse Yankees in their first post-season appearance in twelve-years.
On the other hand, if the Cubs lose all three to the Sox, they could be passed by the Reds and/or Cards. It will be a tough weekend about who to cheer for in each critical game? Allegiance could easily change depending on the circumstances. In a normal season, both Chicago teams would be facing division rivals rather than cross-town foes. It’s just another Covid quirk, that also includes a expanded 16-team Playoff field, empty ballparks, limited homefield advantages, and designated hitters for both leagues. The World Series will take place in Arlington, Texas, another deviation from normalcy. It’s been a tough year for baseball purists.
The Covid-Cardinals are of particular concern to me, with respect to the Cubs. The Red Birds have seven games remaining, while standing only one game behind the Cubs in the loss column. They would have to win all seven to pass the Cubbies, but also postseason seeds are at stake. Three losses to the Sox would give them 27 for the year, while San Francisco, Cincy, Milwaukee and Miami could also disrupt their current #4 NL placement, down from #2 just a few days ago. This weekend, and possibly Monday, determines who plays where, who, and when. I’ll have to wear a Sox sock on one foot and a Cubs on the other.
In other sports important to me, the Celtics are in trouble, while the Lakers dropped their first to the dangerous Nuggets, who have miraculously come from behind in their last two series. The Timbers won their second straight match, outdueling the regional rival Seattle Sounders 1-0 last night. Against all odds, each sport has somehow persevered over threats of the virus. Thankfully, there are live sports to watch every day, including both NFL and NCAA football. The Pac-12 announced today that they will join the other power conferences in pursuit of a 2020-21 National Championship. However, teams won’t start play until November 6th, with a 7-game schedule. They reversed their initial decision and joined the BIG-10 in delayed reconsideration. It sets the stage for college basketball to start, missing only a few non-conference games this year. But first, I’ll focus on a expanded baseball Playoff that involves a very rare joint appearance by both of my teams – Cubs and Sox.
P.S. The White Sox brought in a reliever named Bummer following a 4-run collapse in the bottom of the 7th to the never-give-up Indians. It seemed like an appropriate name to describe the bullpen in this series. The red-hot Tribe took a 5-4 lead in response to falling behind once again in the series. Hand then shut-down the Sox, with two strike-outs and a easy grounder to finish up the 4-game sweep. Cleveland is now just one-game behind the Sox and two short of the Twins, after 5 straight Pale Hose losses. I couldn’t be more frustrated after cross-town losses today at a time when teams need to be playing their best ball. Who wants it more this weekend – the Sox or the Cubs?