Second verse, same as the first

The start of the second half of the season was not a promising one.

After the Cubs salvaged a game against the White Sox on Sunday, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant went to Cincinnati for the all-star festivities, and the rest of the team scattered for a few days.

When they reconvened in Atlanta for a Thursday game against the Braves, the schedule-makers seemed to have been doing the Cubs a bit of a favor. Unfortunately, the team was unable to capitalize, and they fell to the Braves by a 4-2 score.

Teams at or above .500 at this stage of the season still have something to play for, with the addition of the second wild-card team. That seems to have been the idea, after all.

In the National League, let’s just give the first wild card spot to either the Pirates or the Cardinals right now. A lead of five and a half games is not insurmountable, but the Pirates are for real this year. I’d love to see them catch the Cardinals before it’s all over, too. Three-and-a half games doesn’t seem like too much ground to make up, either.

The second half of the season has 75 games, or just under 50% of the remaining games. But unlike opening night in Wrigley Field, this time we know who the competition is. The Mets are a game behind the Cubs for the second wild card spot, and the Giants–that’s the defending champions who have won three rings already this decade–are just a game and a half behind.

Every game counts in the standings, and the time to make up ground diminishes every time the Cubs take the field. There’s only so many opportunities to nail down a playoff spot left.

The Cubs will lose some series the rest of the way this season, but they really can’t afford to. Atlanta has a pretty decent home record, but the Cubs don’t play a team with a record over .500 until they head to Pittsburgh in early August. The Cubs should make hay while the sun shines, or at least while so many weaker teams are on their schedule.

But they had to put Pedro Strop in at a critical point on Friday, didn’t they? Strop does what he does best, by giving the game away with a brutal eighth inning. So just like opening night, the Cubs put themselves behind the eight ball with a loss.

Pedro Strop needs to leave this team right away, because he can’t be trusted to pitch in pressure situations. Joe Maddon will keep trotting him out to the mound if he’s able to, so the front office needs to step in. They need to trade him, DFA him, or do whatever it takes to get him off the team. He’s a liability, pure and simple.

I believed, at the start of the year, that the Cubs were serious about winning this year. Right now I don’t believe it, though, because Strop is still on the roster. When he is safely out of the Cubs organization, that faith may return. But for now, Strop will continue to let the Cubs down. What will be done about this? We’ll find out before too long, I suppose.

Photo: From Twitter / @cubs_fanly / CC BY 2.0 / Alteration: Cropped