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With the Cardinals finally hitting a lull, the Chicago Cubs had an opportunity to make a climb back toward the National League Central lead.

But they lost their second straight game at San Diego, falling to the also-ran Padres 4-0. That was the third shutout the Cubs suffered in their last 11 games.

The Cubs have lost five of their last six games heading into their final game at San Diego.

"It's not fun," Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo told reporters. "We've got to win games. Just because we won one game, doesn't mean we're going to catapult into a winning streak."

And . . .

“I don’t care how we win or lose. I don’t care if we make 15 errors, as long as we win," Rizzo said. "These next two-plus weeks, I don’t care how it’s done, whether it’s pretty or ugly, we just have to win.”

This downturn allowed the injury-depleted Milwaukee Brewers to tie them for the second wild card slot and second place in the division, four games back of the Cardinals. The Brewers won 7-5 at Miami in their first game since losing NL MVP Christian Yelich to a broken kneecap.

"They're definitely playing well and we're not," Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters in his postgame media session. "Somehow we've got to heat this thing up tomorrow and get back home, where we normally play a lot better."

The Cubs have taken some big injury hits of their own, losing infielder Javier Baez (thumb fracture) for the long haul and closer Craig Kimbrel (sore elbow) and infielder Addison Russell (concussion) for the near term.

On the other hand, the Cubs got handyman Ben Zobrist back after his months-long absence and newcomer Nicholas Castellanos has provided a big offensive lift.

“We can change momentum, but we have to be more consistent offensively,” Maddon said. “We win as a group; we lose as a group. But I do believe to get where we want to go, we have to be a consistent offensive team the rest of the season.”


Here is what folks were writing about Milwaukee's loss of  Yelich:

Ben Lindbergh, The Ringer: "With one wayward, pernicious swing on Tuesday, Brewers right fielder Christian Yelich kneecapped himself, his team’s odds of winning a wild card, and his chance at three achievements: a home run crown, the first 50-30 season, and a second consecutive MVP award. Facing a 1-1 count in the first inning of a game against the Marlins, Yelich chased an 80 mph slider inside from Miami’s Elieser Hernández and fouled it off his right knee like a targeting T-800. We’re used to seeing hitters walk away from such blows with a bruise and a 'day-to-day' verdict, but in this unlucky case, the kneecap fractured, ending the outfielder’s season with 18 games to go—and, in the process, derailing a record chase, disrupting a pennant race, and robbing the rest of the regular season of about as much intrigue as any injury could. The 27-year-old Yelich, who leads the NL in on-base percentage and the majors in slugging percentage and total bases, finishes the season with a .329/.429/.671 slash line in 580 plate appearances. His 44 dingers entering Tuesday tied Cody Bellinger and Eugenio Suárez for the third-most in the majors, trailing only Pete Alonso’s 47 among National Leaguers. Yelich, who stole 30 bases in 32 attempts, also ranked third in the majors in baserunning runs, highlighting his rare combination of power and speed. In 2019, he’s been baseball’s best hitter not named Mike Trout, and by FanGraphs WAR, he nose past Trout as the game’s most valuable player over the past calendar year. When one of baseball’s best players misses time at the peak of his powers, the sport always suffers, but the timing and circumstances of Yelich’s injury make the cost extra acute."

Jon Tayler, "Had Yelich’s injury come this time last year, the Brewers likely would have been better equipped to survive it. But the offense has been absent beyond him, thanks to down years from Lorenzo Cain and Travis Shaw (as well as Jesus Aguilar, who was traded away in July). The starting rotation lacks reliability or consistency, relying on back-end guys like Gio Gonzalez, Chase Anderson and Zach Davies amid this playoff push. And a bullpen that was lockdown in 2018 has been shaky, with Josh Hader regressing and his supporting cast failing to produce. Few teams, in other words, were as reliant on one man as the Brewers were on Yelich. With him gone, it’s hard to see how they stay afloat."

R.J. Anderson, "Obviously Yelich's absence hurts the Brewers, who were already operating without rookie second baseman Keston Hiura and starter Brandon Woodruff . . . It should be noted that the Brewers have the weakest remaining schedule in the NL, per Baseball-Reference's calculations: they'll play two more against the Marlins, then three against the St. Louis Cardinals before concluding with 13 consecutive games against sub-.500 teams." 

David Schoenfield, "Still, a makeshift lineup will now be even more makeshift. Travis Shaw started at third base on Tuesday and he's hitting .151. Cory Spangenberg started at second and he has a .273 OBP. Hernan Perez played shortstop and he has a .276 OBP. Cain is hitting just .253/.321/.353. Without their MVP candidate, and minus Hiura and (Mike) Moustakas, you have to wonder where the runs will come from. At least the Brewers have some depth in the outfield with (Trent) Grisham -- who has hit .263/.324/.455 in 33 games -- and Ben Gamel, but they're not going to come close to Yelich's production. These Brewers have found a way to overcome adversity, however. Last year, they won their final seven games and nine of their final 10 to force a tie with the Cubs for the NL Central title and then beat the Cubs in the tiebreaker game. This year, they've had to overcome the struggles and injuries in the rotation. Jhoulys Chacin, who started that tiebreaker game a year ago, went from staff ace to getting released in late August with a 5.79 ERA. Brandon Woodruff, their best starter this season, has been out since July 21 with an oblique injury. Corbin Burnes was supposed to be a key part of the rotation, but he's 1-5 with a 9.00 ERA. Then there's reliever Jeremy Jeffress, an All-Star last season who was recently cut loose as well."


“We’ve battled all year. As it closes and gets closer and closer, you don’t want to put pressure on yourself or each other. We still need to play our game, do our part and, obviously, battle. It’s 162 games for a reason, and it’s not going to be easy. The teams that do win, it’s not necessarily easy for them. But they have the accountability, and they make sure that when the time comes, they get the job done.”

Cubs pitcher Cole Hamels, to reporters after his team's 4-0 loss.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.